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Quirky Quiz: Passers who threw a Pick-6 in their debut

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  1. Russell Erxleben, who still co-holds the NCAA record for longest field goal, was drafted by the Saints 11th overall as a kicker/punter. Erxleben was a temporary hero in the 1979 opener when his 38-yard field goal with 0:44 left tied the game at 34, but in overtime, a punt snap from John Watson went well over Erxleben’s head, and his Yepremian-like attempt to avoid disaster was easily intercepted and returned for the game-winning touchdown (video). Four days later, Erxleben injured his leg in practice, the first of many of nagging injuries that would eventually keep him out for the season.  After a disastrous start to his 1980 season that included missing tying field goals, fumbling punt snaps, and punching out fans in convenience stores, Erxleben was relegated to punt-only duties for the rest of his NFL career.  He is currently serving his second stint in federal prison for investment fraud.
  2. The Steelers’ Gary Ballman made the Pro Bowl in 1964 and 1965. Ballman threw lefty, which is usually great for deceiving defenses on end around passes but not very meaningful if Deacon Jones is already in the backfield.
  3. Dean Look, who also had a cup of coffee with baseball’s Chicago White Sox, was put in at quarterback for the AFL’s New York Titans for a 4th quarter series against the Broncos when owner Harry Wismer demanded it. Things did not go well. Look also had a 29-year career as a side judge. (See note below about other possible first throws.)
  4. Doug Williams, Peyton Manning, and Nick Foles were all pick-6’d in their NFL debuts. Williams’ interception came just 52 seconds into the season opener.
  5. Ben Roethlisberger relieved the injured Tommy Maddox in the second game of the Steelers’ 2004 season and threw a late pick-6 in a 30-13 loss to the Ravens.  The Steelers would not lose again until the AFC Championship Game.
  6. NFL busts Terry Baker and Pat Sullivan threw pick-6s in their first games as passers. (Sullivan held for placekicks during the first 6 weeks before quarterbacking in Week 7.)

2-point conversion: NFL immortals Todd Hons, Ken Karcher, and the recently-ringed Ed Rubbert all threw pick-6s as replacement players in the 4th week of the 1987 NFL season.  Karcher, who would later play a single game for the 1988 Broncos, was the only one of the three to appear on an NFL roster before or after the strike.

Intercepted for a touchdown, first career passing attempt

1945-present

Year Passer Team Opponent
9/10/2018 Sam Darnold New York Jets Detroit Lions
9/13/2015 Jameis Winston Tampa Bay Buccaneers Tennessee Titans
11/10/1991 Brett Favre Atlanta Falcons Washington Redskins
9/2/1979 Russell Erxleben (P)* New Orleans Saints Atlanta Falcons
9/13/1964 Gary Ballman (WR) Pittsburgh Steelers Los Angeles Rams
9/30/1962 Dean Look New York Titans Denver Broncos

All players are quarterbacks unless otherwise indicated. *In overtime. AFL game.

Notes: the Giants’ Tom Kennedy in 1966 and the Rams’ Don Klosterman in 1952, both of whom threw pick-6s in their debuts, may have thrown those pick-6s on their first career attempts.  Game recaps are unclear.  The Lions’ Bill Callihan definitely threw a pick-6 on his first career attempt in 1942, and about a dozen other pre-1945 players may have.

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