::Former NCSU QB, Coach Passes Away
Thursday June 14, 2007
RALEIGH - Ernie Driscoll, the backup quarterback on NC State's first ACC Championship team and the last surviving member of Wolfpack legend Earle Edwards' coaching staff, died on June 4th at Sunnybrook Nursing Home in Raleigh from the effects of Alzheimer's disease.
The former quarterback and assistant coach at North Carolina State University was 75 and was known throughout his life for his passion for the Wolfpack. He will also be known as the quarterback who made the play that made Burt Reynolds so frustrated he quit football and went into acting.
Driscoll, a native of Pittsburgh, shared the quarterbacking duties with Tom Katich for the 1957 Wolfpack, which clinched the school's first league title since winning the 1927 Southern Conference Championship by beating South Carolina, 29-26, when halfback Dick Christy kicked a 46-yard field goal with no time remaining on the clock on the final day of the 1957 season.
Driscoll was listed as the Katich's backup, but he threw three touchdown passes that season, including one that has gone down in both NC State and Florida State football lore.
Playing in Tallahassee, Florida, the Wolfpack scored the game's only points on the final play of the first half when Driscoll hit a streaking Christy on the sidelines for a somewhat questionable 46-yard touchdown.
Christy eluded Florida State cornerback Buddy Reynolds by running out of bounds, going behind the Seminole bench and returning to the field behind a confused Reynolds.
He caught Driscoll's pass and went untouched into the end zone, the only points in the Wolfpack's 7-0 victory.
Seminole coach Tom Nugent chewed out his defensive back for letting Christy get away.
Reynolds was so upset that he walked off the field, changed his name to Burt, tucked his last $80 in his pocket and took off for Hollywood, California. Of course, Burt Reynolds is now more well-known for his exploits as an actor on TV and in movies like "Smokey and the Bandit" than he is for playing football.
"Burt Reynolds always talks about that pass that Christy caught," Driscoll told NC State athletics historian Frank Weedon in 1996. "He never says anything about the pass that I threw that drove him from football and into the movies."
Driscoll, who had transferred to NC State prior to 1957 from Indiana State Teachers College, was slated to be the Wolfpack's starting quarterback in 1958, but problems with his transcripts resulted in him being declared ineligible days before the team's season opener against North Carolina.
Wolfpack fans at the time suspected that Tar Heel coach Jim Tatum was the responsible for Driscoll's eligibility issues.
Driscoll stood on the sidelines during the game against Tatum's Tar Heels and was awarded a game ball by his teammates after the Pack posted a 21-14 victory.
He spent the rest of the season as a student coach and earned a B.S. degree in Recreation Administration in 1959.
Driscoll spent three years as a high school assistant coach in Waycross, Georgia, before returning to Raleigh in 1962 when Pat Peppler took an assistant's position at Wake Forest.
His initial responsibilities were to coach the ends and linebackers on defense and serve as the chief scout for upcoming opponents.
He eventually became the Wolfpack's backfield coach.
"I was fortunate to have Ernie Driscoll as our offensive backfield coach during my playing days at NC State," said Bobby Hall, a Wolfpack running back from 1966-68 and a senior executive vice president at the State Employees Credit Union in Raleigh.
"Having been the quarterback for a Wolfpack championship team in the late fifties, he had a great loyalty to the school and was a 'player's coach' who identified with his players," Hall added.
"He had a great football mind and great loyalty and support for Earle Edwards, which proved to be a winning combination for us," he said.
He spent a total of 10 years as an assistant at NC State for Edwards and for Al Michaels. He remained in Raleigh in private business after Lou Holtz became NC State's head football coach in 1972.
"He was a special man," said former Wolfpack player Dick "Amedeo" DeAngelis. "I always thought he was very, very underrated as a coach. He had head-coaching DNA, but he never really got that chance."
In 1991, Driscoll was the player personnel director for the Raleigh Skyhawks of the World League of American Football, working closely with Skyhawks head coach Roman Gabriel.
Driscoll is survived by his wife, Joan Driscoll, of Raleigh; his three children, Michael Edward Driscoll, Margaret Driscoll and Joan Wooddall, all of Raleigh; and grandson Darrin Johnson, also of Raleigh.
Johnson, who graduated from Raleigh's Broughton High School this month, followed in his grandfather's footsteps, playing football all four years of high school.
Driscoll was remembered at a memorial service on Monday at 7pm at Brown-Wynne Funeral Home at 1701 East Millbrook Rd. in Raleigh.
The family has requested that in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to the Earle Edwards Endowment Scholarship Fund through the Wolfpack Club. ::