By Ben Luli
This week in Youngstown State University sports history, we highlight former YSU quarterback Cliff Stoudt. Stoudt was a four-year starter for the Penguins from 1973-1976. He became a campus legend by leading the team to the program’s first postseason appearance in 1974. They faced the University of Delaware in the first round of the Division II football playoffs. Stoudt is a member of the YSU Athletic Hall of Fame, inducted in 1987.
He had the seemingly impossible task of replacing Ron Jaworski as the Penguins’ signal caller in 1973. Jaworski thrived as YSU’s quarterback for four seasons, finishing as the Penguins’ all-time leading passer. After graduation, he became the highest draft pick in program history, a second round pick by the Los Angeles Rams. Stoudt filled Jaworski’s shoes nicely during his time at YSU. The two quarterbacks are forever connected, whether it’s Stoudt being Jaworski’s successor or the two quarterbacks occupying slots in the record books near each other.
Stoudt finished his career with 41 total touchdowns, 16 through the air and 25 on the ground. His 25 career rushing touchdowns is the most by a YSU quarterback in school history. At his time of induction into the Athletic Hall of Fame, Stoudt was top 10 in eight offensive categories. He graduated as the program’s second leading passer with 4,387 yards and the all-time leader in total offense with 5,459 total yards.
After his time as a Penguin, Stoudt was a fifth round selection by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1977 NFL Draft. He spent seven seasons with the Steelers, winning two Super Bowls. During the 1983 season with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Stoudt took over as the team’s starting quarterback. He led the Steelers to a 9-2 start and an AFC Central division crown. He finished the season with 12 touchdown passes and 2,553 yards through the air. Stoudt also showcased his dual-threat capability by rushing for 479 yards and adding four scores on the ground.
Following his stint with Pittsburgh, Stoudt joined the Birmingham Stallions of the USFL for two seasons. He led the Stallions to back-to-back divisional championships, compiling a league-best 27 wins in that span. Stoudt amassed nearly 6,500 passing yards to go along with 60 passing touchdowns. He also boasted the second-highest quarterback rating both years, trailing only NFL Hall of Famer Jim Kelly.
Stoudt returned to the NFL after the USFL ceded league operation in 1986. Before the following NFL season, he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals where he made four starts in three years. Stoudt signed with the Miami Dolphins prior to the 1989 season as a free agent. His last contract in the NFL came with the Dallas Cowboys as an emergency quarterback during Week 15 of the 1990 season.
Stoudt’s legacy as a Penguin was his dual-threat ability from the quarterback position. He still ranks in the top 20 in passing and rushing touchdowns. Leading YSU to its first postseason appearance is a feather in his proverbial cap.