Commentary

Hostetler can relate to Eli's rollercoaster ride

Jeff Hostetler recalls filling in for Phil Simms and winning a Super Bowl, writes Rudy Klancnik.

Originally Published: January 23, 2008
By Rudy Klancnik | Special to ESPN.com

Jeff HostetlerGeorge Rose/Getty ImagesJeff Hostetler had been a backup for most of his career but found fame in Super Bowl XXV.

Their Shot At Glory

Of the first 41 Super Bowls, 51 different quarterbacks have started. Some, like Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw and Tom Brady, are legends. But whatever happened to some of the lesser-known starters? Take a look:

• Tony Eason (SB XX)
• Vince Ferragamo (SB XIV)
• Jeff Hostetler (SB XXV)
• Stan Humphries (SB XXIX)
• Craig Morton (SB V, SB XII)
• Jim Plunkett (SB XV, SB XVIII)
• Mark Rypien (SB XXVI)

A New York Giants team on a miraculous late-season roll with a surprisingly effective quarterback at the helm. Big playoff wins en route to a Super Bowl berth against a favored opponent.

Sound familiar?

Eli Manning and his bunch can only hope their dream march to Super Bowl XLII ends the same way Jeff Hostetler's did in January 1991 on the turf in Tampa Bay.

Hostetler started that season as the backup for former Super Bowl MVP Phil Simms. But with two games to play in the regular season, Simms broke his foot and Hostetler, who had thrown a total of 109 passes in a little more than six seasons, became "The Man."

All he did was cooly guide the Giants to a 20-19 win in Super Bowl XXV against the Buffalo Bills, a game that started with Whitney Houston's inspirational national anthem and ended wide right when Bills place-kicker Scott Norwood barely missed a game-winning field goal at the final gun.

With their second Super Bowl title in five years, Bill Parcells and Lawrence Taylor cemented their spots as legendary Giants. But Hostetler managed to find some room in Giants lore, too.

"The thing I'm most proud of was being prepared and taking advantage when the opportunity finally presented itself," Hostetler said. "Quarterbacks have come to realize that Super Bowls are a different type of pressure than they've ever experienced. To play well under those circumstances was very rewarding.

Hostetler In The Super Bowl

In ESPN.com's rankings of the 82 performances by starting quarterbacks in the first 41 Super Bowls, Jeff Hostetler's performance for the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXV ranks 30th. Here are his stats:

Super Bowl XXV

Comp. Att. Yards TD INT
20 32 222 1 0

• All Super Bowl QB performances

"I'm especially happy for Eli since he's gone through so much this season with the fans and the media … he's very deserving of this shot. It's great when people jump off the bandwagon and you show them what you're really made of."

Hostetler faced similar doubts when Simms went down, but he earned the respect of Giants fans by managing the offense and not making mistakes. In the three playoff games that year, Hostetler was 45-of-76 for 510 yards and two TDs -- and more importantly, no interceptions.

"Everyone was saying that we had no chance after Phil went down. But my teammates trusted and respected me as their quarterback and we pulled together as a team," Hostetler said. "We won our final five games, including an upset of the heavily favored Bills. Those guys had an explosive offense and a dynamic defense yet we figured out a way to keep the game close and win at the end."

Hostetler, a standout quarterback for West Virginia, returned to his collegiate roots of Morgantown, W. Va., to start his life after football with his wife Vicky (the daughter of former WVU head coach Don Nehlen) and three sons.

Hostetler owns a construction company, but his pride and joy is the foundation he started during his playing days -- the Hoss Foundation -- that helps inner-city kids get a second chance.

"It's been very rewarding and continues to grow," he said. "I grew up in Western Pennsylvania, but after coming to West Virginia, I've really adopted this state as my own. I love the opportunity to give back to this community."

Rudy Klancnik is a freelance writer based in Texas.