Pat Sullivan, Auburn’s first Heisman Trophy winner, dies at 69

AUBURN, Ala. — Pat Sullivan, Auburn’s first Heisman Trophy winner, died at home Sunday morning surrounded by his family. He was 69 years old.

“He was diagnosed with cancer in 2003 and fought a long and difficult battle as a result of his treatments,” the Sullivan family said in a statement released through Auburn University. “The family is appreciative of everyone’s outpouring of love and support.”

The Birmingham native played quarterback for the Tigers from 1968-71, winning college football’s top award in his final season when he passed for 2,262 yards and 21 touchdowns and rushed for 66 yards and two more scores for a team that went 9-2.

Sullivan finished his career with 6,534 passing yards and 54 touchdowns through the air, plus another 18 on the ground. His No. 7 has been retired at Auburn, and he’s one of three players with a statue outside of Jordan-Hare Stadium, along with the program’s other Heisman Trophy winners, Bo Jackson and Cam Newton. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a player in 1991.

Pat Sullivan was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a player in 1991.

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of Pat Sullivan, one of Auburn’s all-time greats on and off the field,” Auburn head football coach Gus Malzahn said in a statement. “I will forever be indebted to Coach Sullivan for helping bring me back to Auburn to serve as the head football coach. He was a friend, mentor and a man of great character, who was beloved by many generations of Auburn fans. Pat Sullivan is, and always will be, the definition of an Auburn Man. He certainly will be missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with Pat’s wife, Jean, their three children and the entire Sullivan family.”

Sullivan was a second-round selection (No. 40 overall) in the 1972 NFL draft and went on to spend five seasons in the league, playing four with the Atlanta Falcons and won with the Washington Redskins before retiring following the 1976 season.

He spent five years doing radio color commentary for Auburn football games before joining head coach Pat Dye’s staff as the quarterbacks coach, a role he served in from 1986-91. Sullivan was also the head coach at TCU (1992-97) and Samford (2007-14) with a stint as Alabama-Birmingham’s offensive coordinator in between (1999-2006).

He compiled a 71-85-1 mark overall, including a 47-43 mark with the Bulldogs, before concluding his coaching career in 2014.

Sullivan is survived by his wife, the former Jean Hicks, and their three children — Kim, Kelly and Patrick Jr.

Josh Vitale is the Auburn beat writer for the Montgomery Advertiser. You can follow him on Twitter at @JoshVitale. To reach him by email, click here.

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