Gary Joseph Beban (born August 5, 1946) is a former American football player. Beban won the Heisman Trophy, and the Maxwell Award in 1967 while playing quarterback at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He played professional football for two seasons in the National Football League (NFL) with the Washington Redskins. Beban was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1988.
The son of an Italian-born mother and a first-generation Croatian-American father, Beban graduated from Sequoia High School in Redwood City, California.
Beban, known as "The Great One", excelled in both academics and athletics, majoring in European history while quarterbacking the Bruins across three straight winning seasons. As UCLA quarterback, he was named to the all-conference team three times, and led the Bruins to a 24–5–2 record. His school record for total offense lasted for 15 years. As a sophomore, he threw two touchdown passes in the last four minutes to rally the Bruins over crosstown arch-rival, USC, 20–16. In the 1966 Rose Bowl, Beban scored both UCLA's touchdowns in the Bruins' 14–12 victory over No. 1 ranked Michigan State.
In his senior year, Beban played in the 1967 USC vs. UCLA football game, widely regarded as one of the best college football games of all time. The game pitted No. 4 AP (No. 2 UPI) ranked USC, and their Heisman Trophy candidate running back O. J. Simpson, against the No. 1 ranked Bruins and Beban—also a Heisman Trophy candidate—with both the AAWU and national championships on the line. Badly injured with torn rib cartilage and in great pain, he still threw for over 300 yards and two touchdown passes to lead the Bruins in scoring. Although USC eventually won the game 21–20 on a blocked PAT, and went on to the Rose Bowl, Beban would go on to win the Heisman Trophy. Both Beban and Simpson were featured on the cover of the November 20 issue of Sports Illustrated magazine. Commenting on Beban's heroic effort playing through injury, famed L.A. Times columnist Jim Murray wrote that if "Gary Beban wins the Heisman Trophy, they ought to fill it with aspirin"
In addition to winning the Heisman, Beban was unanimously named to the All-America Team, won the Maxwell Award, and was awarded the Washington Touchdown Club Trophy and the W. J. Voit Memorial Trophy as the outstanding football player on the Pacific Coast. He was also named a National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete and received the Dolly Cohen award, given to the player best combining academic and football achievement.
UCLA became the first school to have a player of the year winner in both basketball and football in the same year, with Beban winning the Heisman Trophy and Lew Alcindor winning the U.S. Basketball Writers Association player of the year award in 1968. For one week in November 1967, UCLA had the No. 1 ranked football and men's basketball teams, with the chance of landing national championships in both sports (Florida actually collected both crowns in 2006). UCLA did ultimately garner the 1968 basketball championship.
Beban was inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame in 1991. He is a charter member of the UCLA Hall of Fame, and his uniform number 16 has been retired. Although the UCLA football program has turned out a few successful professional players through the years, Beban remains the only Bruin to win the Heisman.
After graduating from UCLA, Beban was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in the second round (30th overall) of the 1968 NFL draft. His draft rights were traded to the Washington Redskins on June 14, 1968, after failing to agree to terms on a contract with the Rams, in exchange for a first-round draft pick in 1969 (the Rams used the pick, 10th overall, to select split end Jim Seymour). Beban signed a reported three-year contract worth $200,000 three days later. He played for the Redskins in 1968 and 1969. But, sitting behind veteran quarterback and future NFL Hall-of-Famer Sonny Jurgensen, Beban was not given much game time, and the professional stardom portended by his college career was not forthcoming. After being released from the Redskins on September 8, 1970, Beban signed with the Denver Broncos following the 1970 season. However, he was placed on waivers on August 5, 1971, and retired from professional football immediately.
In 1971, Beban joined the Los Angeles office of CB Richard Ellis, a global real estate services company. Beginning in 1975, he worked to establish offices in the Chicago area. He was named president and general manager of the company in 1985, and in 1998 became senior executive managing director of the company's Global Corporate Services unit. For several years in the 1970s, he also provided unique color commentary for UCLA football telecasts.
In 2009, UCLA scheduled a special "Throwback Jersey" day in honor of Heisman Trophy Winner Gary Beban for the UCLA-Washington homecoming game at the Rose Bowl, where the team dressed in the resplendent powder-blue and white shoulder-stripe jerseys with pure gold helmets (without decals) of UCLA's storied days of Beban's great 1965–66–67 seasons, uniforms first devised by the legendary coach Red Sanders for his national power teams of the 1950s, including the 1954 National Championship team. Fans were able to purchase Beban's number 16 jersey to wear en masse that day.