Texas Longhorns Football: Q&A with Legendary QB Peter Gardere

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

Former Texas Longhorns QB Peter Gardere reflects on his legendary career and talks about the start of a new season.

The University of Texas has a long, storied tradition of great players to have lined up under center for the Longhorns. Bobby Layne, James Street, Major Applewhite, Vince Young, Colt McCoy all achieved greatness in Austin. However, none were able to match the feat of the man known as Peter the Great.

In the 100-plus year history of the Red River Shootout…err Rivalry, no starting quarterback on either side has been able to claim four straight victories over the other. No one except Peter Gardere!

After Gardere and the Horns wrapped up a 34-24 win over Oklahoma in 1992, the Sooner crowd broke out with a “Graduate! Graduate!” chant. The Sooners faithful had to admit defeat because their team simply could not beat Peter Gardere.

After leaving Texas, Gardere played three seasons in the Canadian Football League, served as James Van Der Beek’s and the late Paul Walker’s doubles in Varsity Blues, was elected to the Texas High School Hall of Fame, and became a highly successful commercial real estate portfolio manager back in Austin.

Gardere took some time to speak with us about being recruited to Texas Football, lessons learned under Coach David McWilliams, and those Oklahoma wins.

Peter Gardere Reflects on the Start of the Journey

EM: So, let’s go back to the beginning. I know you had family members that played and went to Texas, but you had options coming out of Lee High School in Houston. What made you ultimately decide to come to Austin?

PG: It’s funny, you know because I always thought I wanted to go out of state for school. I went to visits to Penn State, Notre Dame, and Michigan. Once I got up there though, we went to see the Michigan-Ohio State game, and it was snowing and freezing cold and I thought I can’t do this.

Then we went to Notre Dame and I was like: “Where are the girls at?” Ultimately, I wanted my parents to be able to see me play, so I decided to play closer to home. For me, whenever I get asked advice from kids about where they should go to school I always ask: “Do you want your family to be able to watch you play every week?” That was a simple answer for me. My grandfather played at Texas. My father played at Texas. I have family members that went there. That made my decision easier.

EM: How impactful was Coach McWilliams on your decision to ultimately come to Texas?

PG: He had a lot of impact, really. He would come in person [for recruiting visits]. When I would go to visit Austin, he would always come and see me. He would come out from behind his desk, shake my hand, and sit down and chat with me. He was very interested in what I was doing. Coach McWilliams was respectful of my parents. He was truly a players coach.

Peter Gardere on Oklahoma

EM: Aside from those amazing four wins against OU, what are some of your favorite memories of playing for the Longhorns?

PG: For me, my favorite memories are of the players that we had. A lot of people said those teams didn’t have a lot of talent. I disagree with that. Some years we had more talent than they ever had. More importantly, though, they were great people. I really enjoyed playing with everybody on those teams. We had a really great bond.

EM: Okay, let’s talk the Red River Rivalry. A lot has been made about you being the only QB in the history of either side to win four straight. What was it about you that made you so successful in those games?

PG: Easy, my defense! [laughs] Having a great defense covers up a lot. It wasn’t my skill. Our defense kept us in all of those games and I had a play or two. Everybody just seemed to crank it up for those games. It is really one of the great rivalries in college football.

I don’t know if they still do it now, but [the coaches] used to play the Oklahoma fight song in practice the week leading up to the game in our locker room and on the practice field. We got so tired of hearing that song! In practice, the scout team would dress up in OU colors and helmets. The press always made such a big deal out of that game, it was a lot of fun to play. It’s a bigger deal now because they’re in our conference. Back then it was state against state.

Peter the Great?

More from Texas Football

EM: Have you been able to embrace the legacy you made there at Texas? Are you comfortable being “Peter the Great?”

PG: Of course! It’s great to be remembered, but anytime someone brings up OU or something like that, I have to give credit to my teammates. Especially our defense. Texas has always been a defensive school and our defenses were some of the best in the nation for two out of my four years there. I like to give credit to those guys. I was just handing off the ball and making some throws here and there.

EM: How close have you remained with the school and the team?

PG: I go to all the games and I stay touch with a lot of guys. Major Applewhite and I are good friends. Oscar Giles and I are really close. But, I don’t feel like it’s my duty to go [to Austin] now and talk to the players and tell them how things used to be. It’s a different game now.

When I was playing, we used to have some of the old guys come in and tell us what to do and it wasn’t always appreciated. I would think, “Y’all didn’t even throw the ball,” so I think the game is so different now that it would be similar for the current team. If someone wants me to put my two cents in, I’m more than happy to give it.

Peter Gardere on 2017 Texas Football Team

EM: Last thing, what are your thoughts on this year’s team and of Head Coach Tom Herman?

PG: I’ve met Tom Herman. I know Major thought Tom was one of the best coaches around. For the team, I like where things are going. I like that he is making everybody compete. The practices have gotten harder.

I think that’s one of the problems of the last few years. We got kind of soft. When you’re not competing in the third and fourth quarters, that says something. These guys now, Tom will have Texas Football ready to go and be in shape and ready to bust some heads.