SYRACUSE As the ovation got louder, Donovan McNabbs smile that Syracuse University football fans so fondly remember stretched wider.
McNabbs No. 5 jersey was put on permanent display over Section 330 of the Carrier Dome on Saturday during halftime of SUs 13-0 win over Wake Forest.
Donning a suit and Orange tie and surrounded by a group of about 30-35 people that included family, friends and old teammates, the legendary SU quarterback took the microphone and delivered a simple message.
Thank you. Thank you all so much, he said to the crowd of 38,550.
McNabb went on to acknowledge fans and former teammates before delivering a promise that caused another loud ovation.
Syracuse football will be back, he proclaimed.
SU fans can only hope the program can get back to the kind of success McNabb oversaw from 1995-98.
He led SU to a 35-14 record in his four seasons as the starter, including three straight Big East Conference championships and four straight bowl games, highlighted by an appearance in the Orange Bowl his senior year.
McNabb is the programs all-time leader in total yardage (9,950) and touchdown passes (77) and was named the Big East Player of the Year an unprecedented three times.
Well never forget playing here in front of you guys and bringing that excitement each and every Saturday, McNabb said before closing his short speech with another thank you.
On Friday, SU quarterback Terrel Hunt said McNabb took time to watch film with him.
That was a great opportunity, Hunt said. He was just telling me little pointers and said that he had problems when he played, things like throwing off your back foot or putting more oomph in the ball.
Hunt added: He told me, Its really about keying in on your players and the defenses youre playing, because youre a great athlete, and you can let your play take you a long way.
On Friday, McNabb said of Hunt: Youre looking at a guy in T-Hunt that can possibly be the guy for years to come. He has the strong arm, the attitude, the brains, and thats where it starts. Everything will begin to follow as he begins to gain experience.
McNabb is the fourth player in SU history to have his jersey honored. He joins Larry Csonka (No. 39), John Mackey (88) and Don McPherson (9). The only number officially retired in program history is 44, worn by Jim Brown, Floyd Little and Ernie Davis, among others.
McNabb went on to become the second overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. His 13-year NFL career is highlighted by a Super Bowl appearance, four straight NFC title games and six Pro Bowls. He now works as an NFL analyst for Fox Sports.
THIS N THAT
SU captured its second shutout of the season and first in conference play since a win over Rutgers in 1996. SU last recorded two shutouts in the same year in 1997... Prince-Tyson Gulleys 67-yard run to end the third quarter matched his career high and was the longest for SU this year... Dyshawn Davis passed Chandler Jones for 10th on the schools all-time tackles for loss list. He has 28.5 in his three-year career... SU forced 12 Wake Forest punts, tied with Penn State for the most ever by an opponent. That occurred in 1952.