Majkowski's Magic Continues To Linger In Charlottesville
Sept. 21, 1999
Though few quarterbacks dare boast the number one on their uniforms, it was a perfect fit for former Cavalier play caller Don Majkowski. As the first true freshman quarterback to play at Virginia under head coach George Welsh, Majkowski quickly displayed the poise and confidence needed to help guide the football program to the next level.
During his sophomore year he took over the starting duties at quarterback and directed Virginia to a second place finish in the ACC. More importantly, his efforts earned the Cavaliers a trip to their first ever bowl game: a 1984 Peach Bowl matchup versus Purdue. Unaccustomed to the pressures of postseason play, the Cavaliers found themselves down 10 points to the Boilermakers at halftime.
In the third quarter, however, Majkowski calmly regrouped the offense and started the comeback charge with a one-yard touchdown run. After the Cavaliers tied the game with an early fourth quarter field goal, Majkowski and the Virginia offense orchestrated a drive that reached the Purdue one-yard line.
A 22-yard Kenny Stadlin field goal capped off the rally and secured a 27-24 Peach Bowl victory.
“It was the first, most exciting part of my career,” said Majkowski. “Being part of [the Peach Bowl] and quarterbacking [the team], it was the beginning of a dream come true for me.”
The Peach Bowl victory over Purdue marked the beginning of a transitional period in Virginia football history. With the postseason win, the Cavaliers vaulted into the national spotlight and finished the year ranked 17th in the country by The Associated Press. For the first time in 32 years, Virginia was now recognized as one of country’s top football programs. Majkowski looks back at this period as the foundation from which the Cavaliers grew into the ranks of the college football elite.
“Proving that you can win a big bowl game against a nationally-ranked team and becoming nationally ranked for the first time in a long time were stepping stones in the turnaround of the whole program,” he said. “We finally turned the corner and proved that Virginia was not only a great basketball school, but that it was also developing a good football program.”
Don Majkowski recognizes his career spanned an important time in Virginia football history and to be a part of that era is special to him.
“Being the starting quarterback at that time and being a part of the history, it’s a nice feather in your cap. There are not many times you can be a part of history in any aspect of your life.”
Majkowski finished his career at Virginia as one of the school’s most prolific passers. He ranks third in career total offense, sixth in career touchdown passes and is the Cavaliers’ fourth all-time leading passer. Majkowski credits a large part of his success to the teachings and advise of one particular Virginia coach.
“Even to this day I always say that coach Tom Sherman had such a great deal to do with my growth as a quarterback. He taught me so much on and off the field. He was a key mentor and a big part of my growing process as a person and as a quarterback,” said Majkowski.
After completing a distinguished college football career, Majkowski graduated to the professional ranks and was drafted in the 10th round by the Green Bay Packers. He quickly blossomed into one of the league’s top-rated passers, and in 1989 he was selected to the NFL Pro Bowl. That same year, the former Virginia quarterback also finished second in the MVP race behind future hall of famer Joe Montana. For Majkowski, being a Packer and playing in the pros was a truly unique experience.
“Playing in the NFL was just living a childhood dream. Being a part of Green Bay Packer history and playing in Lambeau Field is hard to explain in words. The mystique of that field lives up to everything people imagine it would.”
As a Packer, Majkowski developed a certain mystique of his own. A master of the come-from-behind victory, he soon became well known for his late game heroics. As his reputation grew, Majkowski eventually earned the nickname of “Majik” man. Half chuckling, he admits being called the “Majik” man is not the sole result of a few game-winning miracles.
“It was a neat nickname. I think that the name has a little bit to do with some last-minute plays but has more to do with people mispronouncing my name,” said Majkowski.
A name not soon to be forgotten in Charlottesville, Don Majkowski will always be remembered as one of Virginia’s greatest and most influential quarterbacks. A large part of the school’s first bowl victory, he leaves behind a legacy that helped Cavalier football reach new heights. Few would disagree that the University of Virginia has been touched by the true magic of Don Majkowski.