'The Great One'
Published Oct 1, 2007 8:00 AM
From the files of the UCLA History Project
As UCLA's starting quarterback from 1965-'67, Gary Beban led the Bruins to a 24-5-2 record and a Rose Bowl victory during his three-year reign, earning him the nickname "The Great One." And November marks the 40th anniversary of Beban winning the Heisman Trophy, awarded annually to the nation's top college football player. Beban — the only Bruin to ever win the Heisman — edged out USC running back O.J. Simpson for the honor.
"There's no doubt Gary was the best college football player in the country," UCLA Head Coach Tommy Prothro told the Los Angeles Times then. "But more important, he's a great young man personally, besides being an outstanding player. The thing he did best for us, I think, was give the rest of our kids a tremendous amount of confidence."
Perhaps Beban's most spectacular performance came against USC in 1965. With the Bruins trailing 16-6 with four minutes to play, he unloaded two touchdown passes, one for 34 yards in the end zone and the other on a 52-yard play (47 yards in the air), for a 20-16 victory that gave UCLA the conference title and Rose Bowl bid. Later that season, he scored both Bruin touchdowns in the 14-12 Rose Bowl victory over Michigan State.
"The three years I played for UCLA were a spectacular time for all of us," says Beban today. "We knew we weren't the most talented team on the field, but somehow we were able to gel, particularly with the coaching of Tommy Prothro, Pepper Rodgers and others."
Beban ranks ninth all-time in UCLA career passing, sixth in total offense and fifth in touchdowns scored. His No. 16 jersey was retired and in 1984, he was elected to the UCLA Athletic Hall of Fame.
After a brief stint with the NFL's Washington Redskins, Beban left football in 1970 for a successful real estate career. That same year, he completed his UCLA history degree.
Today, he's senior executive managing director for CB Richard Ellis' Global Corporate Services group in Chicago. And he's back in the Bruin spotlight as one of six stars featured in UCLA's "Student Athletes: Winners Then. Winners Now" ad campaign.
To see other great moments in UCLA history, visit: www.uclahistoryproject.ucla.edu/Timeline/Home.asp.