Youngstown State has been known to have a lot of good quarterbacks since they became a football team back in 1949. Some have broken records and have made the playoffs. Some have even won championships. Today, we’ll look at the top seven Youngstown State football quarterbacks.
7. Ray Isaac (1988-1991)
When people talk about the 1991 National Championship season, one of the first players that pop into the fans’ head is quarterback Ray Isaac. As a Penguin, he led them from 1988-1991, had a three-year record of 32-8, averaged 10 wins a season, and had three consecutive playoff appearances. Youngstown State was the only team in 1990 to have the only undefeated, united team network. He would win the NCAA 1-AA (now FCS) Championship in 1991 against Marshall with a score of 25-17. Isaac is currently eighth on the Youngstown State pass completions record book with 327. He also had 4,279 yards passing and threw 30 touchdowns from 1989-1991 seasons when he became the official starter. Isaac also played arena football for the Cleveland Thunderbolts where he threw for 728 yards had five touchdowns and seven interceptions and three rushing touchdowns.
6. Ron Jaworski (1969- 1972)
Jaworski is one of the most recognizable Youngstown State quarterbacks of all time. During his time as a Penguin, he would be a signal-caller for Dike Beede’s side-saddle T-formation team and ranks among the leaders in 11 categories on the offense.
Jaworski ranked first with most pass completions in a season (139), had 325 pass completions during his career at Youngstown State, passing yardage on the season with 2,123, and 4,612 passing yardages in his career.
He also had the most touchdown passes in a single game with four and had the most during a season with 18. Jaworski finished third all-time in total offense with 4,452 passing yards and finished fifth in a single season with 1,411. Jaworski would go on to play in the NFL being drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in the second round 37thpick.
He would then play for the Philadelphia Eagles where he led them to Super Bowl XV against the Oakland Raiders. The Eagles would lose, however, 27-10. Jaworski would not re-sign with the Eagles after the 1985 season due to poor play and injuries. He would sign with the Miami Dolphins in 1987, and finish out his career with the Kansas City Chiefs in 1989. Jaworski made the pro bowl in 1980-81 and was a member of ESPN’s Monday Night Football, as an analyst before being let go in 2017.
Now, we get into the top five of our top seven Youngstown State football quarterbacks.
5. Jeff Ryan (1998-2001)
Jeff Ryan was another successful quarterback under the coaching of Jim Tressel. As a Penguin, Ryan threw for 6,226 yards, 57.1 completion percentage, had a quarterback rating of 137.83 and scored 50 touchdowns. Eight times in his career, he brought the Penguins back in the fourth quarter, five of them being in 1999. Most notably was the comeback victory against Florida A&M and Montana in the playoffs. Just like Zetts, Ryan went to Boardman High School where he was Steel Valley Conference Offensive Player of the year, first-team All-Ohio Selection, and was also an Honorable Mentioned by USA Today according to the official YSU Sports site. He led the Penguins to the 1999 1-AA National Championship game but would lose to Georgia Southern, 59-24.
4. Mark Brungard (1992-1995)
Mark Brungard was another one of the great quarterbacks at Youngstown State from 1992-1995. As a Penguin, he played a total of 49 games, completing 496 of 876 passing attempts. Now, that may seem a bit inaccurate, but he did throw for 6,116 yards and 38 touchdowns. Brungard also won back to back National Championships with the Penguins in 1993 (beating Marshall 17-5), and 1994 (beating Boise State 28-14). According to the Youngstown State Sports official website, Brungard became just the second student-athlete at YSU to earn an NCAA 5,000-dollar Postgraduate Scholarship in 1995.
Before leading the Penguins to back to back National Championships, he was a two-time first-team All Ohio at Springfield High School. Brungard was the coach for the Poland Bulldogs varsity football team before resigning in 2015 due to family according to The Vindicator. Brungard was inducted into the Penguins Athletic Hall Of Fame in 2005 and was an assistant last season at Springfield.
3. Trenton Lykes (1984-1987)
When the Penguins were in the Ohio Valley Conference, there was a quarterback who would never quit and was, quite possibly, one of the best at the position to play the game in school history. That man is Trenton Lykes. In his senior season, Lykes ended up setting seven school records and was Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year. Before it was broken by the next player on the list, Lykes was the leader in total offense with 6,846 yards of total offense, 5,865 yards passing and 40 touchdowns. Before he was a Penguin, Lykes was a four-year letterman in football, basketball, baseball, and track. Lykes would win the state championship for Track and Field as a senior.
2. Tom Zetts (2003-2007)
Tom Zetts has inducted into the Penguin Hall of Fame in 2017 for a reason. Zetts played from 2003-2007 where he put up great numbers. During his career as a Penguin, Zetts threw for 7,728 yards on 1,094 attempts and had 51 touchdowns.
Zetts also rushed for 648 yards on 233 attempts and scored six touchdowns. Zetts will be most remembered for leading Youngstown State to a come from behind victory in the playoffs primetime on ESPN2. YSU was down 31-20 and would come back thanks to Zetts two touchdowns.
He would be All-Gateway Conference (now Missouri Valley) selection, First Team Academic All-GFC pick, and FCS Academic All-Star Squad. Before all this, he played high school football at Boardman where he threw for 2,802 yards (1,450 his junior season and 1,468 his senior season), scored 13 touchdowns, and was fifth all-time leading passer. Zetts was also a star baseball player. Zetts had some experience with the now folded Mahoning Valley Thunder in Arena Football 2 and was the quarterback for the Parma Panthers of the Italian American Football League guiding them to an EFAF Championship. He now teaches at Boardman and also officiates football games.
1. Kurt Hess (2010-2013)
Kurt Hess may have not been on the right team at the right time or with the right coaching from 2010-2013, but was he something to watch every week. One of his biggest moments was against the Pitt Panthers in 2012 where the Penguins would beat them 31-17. Hess threw for 154 yards and two touchdowns that game and would also rush for 35 yards. He leads Youngstown State in completions (706), 8,926 yards, and 75 touchdowns. Hess was voted Second-team All Missouri Valley Football Conference selection and averaged 185.8 yards per game and had a completion percentage of 61.9 percent. Before Hess went to Youngstown State, he would set school marks in career passing and was a big-time basketball player.