The Texas Longhorns played in the 2023-24 College Football Playoff for the first time since the current format was adopted in 2015. They reached this season’s final four on the strength of an impressive 12-1 record capped off by a 49-21 beatdown of Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Championship Game. At the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 2024, Texas lost against the Washington Huskies who got defeated at the national championship game by Michigan.

Now is a good time to look back at the best quarterbacks in the Texas football program’s history. From Hall of Famers to national champions, we present our take on the all-time top 10.

Who is the starting quarterback for Texas in 2023?

Quinn Ewers, a sophomore, is the Texas quarterback in 2023. He has led an impressive offense loaded with talent that includes the dynamic wide-receiver duo of juniors Adonai Mitchell and Xavier Worthy. Both pass-catchers have also caught the eyes of NFL scouts. Each has more than 800 receiving yards this season, and both are projected to be high picks in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Ewers has put together a solid season in leading the Longhorns to the College Football Playoff. He has completed 70 percent of his passes for 3,161 yards, 21 TDs, and six interceptions. Only two years into his college career, he already has a very impressive resume and will be back as the Longhorns’ No. 1 QB next season regardless of what happens in the upcoming CFP.

Who are the Texas Longhorns backup quarterbacks in 2023?

Freshmen Maalik Murphy and Arch Manning are the backup quarterbacks for Texas. Murphy and Manning have mostly been left on the sidelines, thanks to Ewers’ excellent play. However, Murphy got the nod over Manning when Ewers suffered a shoulder sprain and the backups were called into action. Murphy led the team to two victories but threw as many interceptions as touchdowns. He has since entered the transfer portal, leaving Manning, the nephew of former NFL stars Peyton and Eli Manning, to serve as Ewers’ backup at Texas next year.

Manning’s high-profile family history has put him in the media spotlight for years. It will be interesting to see if he settles for a backup role next season or opts to hunt for a better opportunity elsewhere.

History of Texas Quarterbacks

Texas Longhorns football history has been blessed with several exciting star quarterbacks over the decades. Bobby Layne’s prolific stretch in the 1940s is difficult to compare to that of Sam Ehlinger in the late 2010s, but both players have a place in the hearts of Longhorns fans.

Of course, one can’t talk about past Longhorns QBs without focusing on Vince Young. The Longhorns lost only one game over Young’s final two years as a starter, and he lit up box scores as both a passer and a rusher. The national championship he won in 2005 secures his spot atop any list of the greatest Texas Longhorns quarterbacks.

Active Texas Quarterbacks in the NFL

The list of former Texas Longhorns quarterbacks currently active in the NFL is a short one. Sam Ehlinger is the one and only, and he serves as a third-string backup for the Indianapolis Colts.

Ranking the Top 10 Greatest Texas Longhorns Quarterbacks of All Time

  1. Chris Simms

Seasons at Texas: 1999 to 2002

Chris Simms’ career at Texas improved as the years went by. His first college football experience came as the backup to Major Applewhite, a name that might appear later in this list.

After backing up Applewhite as a freshman, Simms was allowed to compete with him for the starting QB role in 2000. Both players struggled to take advantage of their opportunities until a season-ending injury caused Applewhite to miss the second half of the year. Simms impressed his coach enough to emerge as Texas’ full-time starter in 2001.

Simms finally managed to make a name for himself in the No. 1 role. He threw for 2,603 yards, 22 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions as a junior in 2001. There were some very impressive stretches throughout the year, but Simms also had a disastrous performance against Oklahoma and another against Colorado in the Big 12 Championship Game. Simms committed four turnovers in the first half of the 39-37 loss to the Buffaloes before an injury to his finger mercifully took him out of the game. He was benched for the Holiday Bowl that followed.

Simms’ senior year at Texas was his most successful, as he eclipsed his previous best statistical showings by throwing for 3,207 years, 26 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. His efforts helped the team to a Cotton Bowl victory over LSU. Simms threw for 269 yards and two touchdowns in that game to cap off a fantastic season that saw him win Texas’ MVP award.

Following his college career, Simms was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2003 NFL Draft’s third round. He had an opportunity to start in his second year but was unable to prove that he belonged in the NFL. He was out of the league by 2010 and now works as an in-studio analyst for NBC.

  1. Eddie Phillips

Seasons at Texas: 1969 to 1971

Playing under legendary head coach Darrell Royal, Eddie Phillips got a quick taste of success. As a freshman, he was the backup quarterback on Texas’ 1969 national championship team. He saw action in eight games that season, but was used merely to help close out games.

Phillips took over the starting role in 1970 and quickly earned a reputation as a dangerous dual-threat quarterback. Not only was Phillips a talented player, he was also in charge of the offense at a very good time in the school’s history. In 1970, he helped Texas roll to 10 straight wins that closed out a school record 30 consecutive victories between 1968 and 1970. The Longhorns also earned a share of the 1970 national championship.

The highlight for Phillips in 1970 was his incredible performance in the Cotton Bowl, where he was named the Outstanding Player on offense despite his team’s loss to Notre Dame. In earning the honor, he threw for 199 yards and rushed for 164. It was one of the greatest performances in Texas football history and marked the first time a Longhorns quarterback went over 100 yards in both passing and rushing in a bowl game.

Phillips returned as the team’s starting QB in 1971 but suffered numerous injuries throughout the season. He finished with a 14-2 career record as a starter and left school with the top four rushing performances by a quarterback in Texas history. Given that he played in an era when the college game looked very different from what we see today, it is important not to let Phillips’ low passing-yardage totals overshadow the impact he had on the team. He was inducted into the Longhorn Hall of Honor in 2005.

Phillips’ professional football career was not as successful as the college version. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams as a safety rather than a quarterback. Unfortunately, Phillips didn't make it to the start of the 1972 NFL season because he was cut before the first game.

  1. Marty Akins

Seasons at Texas: 1972 to 1975

As a dual-threat quarterback, Marty Akins thrived in head coach Darrell Royal’s wishbone offense. In 1973, his first full season with the Longhorns, Akins started every game and led the team to its sixth consecutive Southwest Conference (SWC) championship. He earned a reputation for being a tough, gritty quarterback, as he played through a broken toe suffered early in the year. For his efforts in 1973, Akins won the SWC Newcomer Award.

More good performances followed in 1974, as Akins set a Texas single-game rushing record for a quarterback with 188 yards. The 1974 Longhorns finished the regular season at 8-3 before losing to Auburn in the Gator Bowl.

In 1975, Akins took his reputation for toughness to the next level. He tore his ACL late in the season but was able to return to action two weeks later. Despite the injury, he managed to lead the Longhorns to a 10-2 record. He was unable to play in the conference championship game, which the Longhorns lost, but he did manage to limp through a 38-21 Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl victory over Colorado.

Akins was a star for the Longhorns in 1975, and his season ended with both All-America honors and a spot on the SWC’s All-Conference team. He was added to the University of Texas Hall of Honor in 1995.

Injuries unfortunately prevented Akins from establishing a career in the pro game. Instead, he turned to law and later politics as his next callings in life.

  1. James Brown

Seasons at Texas: 1994 to 1997

The charismatic James Brown was a popular figure in Texas. Yet another dual-threat quarterback who made this list, he led the Longhorns to some memorable moments. No moment was bigger than his appearance in the 1996 Big 12 Championship Game against Nebraska.

On a late-game, fourth-and-inches situation from his own 29-yard line, Brown entered the history books by executing an ambitious play call, now known as the “Roll Left.” His 61-yard pass kept the drive alive to clinch the upset victory and secure his legendary status.

Brown led Texas to a 25-13-1 record during his four seasons at the school, taking the Longhorns to bowl games in his sophomore and junior seasons. By the time his college career ended, Brown had set Texas records for passing yards (7,638), total offense (8,049 yards), and touchdown passes (53). More than 25 years later, he remains fourth in school history when it comes to both career passing yardage and touchdowns.

Brown’s final season at Texas was marred by injuries and interceptions. It was a disappointing end to what had been a fantastic career up to that point. The tumultuous finish led to Brown’s being passed over in the NFL Draft. He bounced around a few lower pro football leagues before calling it a career in 2004.

  1. Major Applewhite

Seasons at Texas: 1998 to 2001

Major Applewhite oversaw a very consistent stretch of good play from the Texas Longhorns. He was an efficient passer who earned a reputation for not giving the ball away. As a sophomore, he set a school record by throwing 156 consecutive passes without an interception.

In his redshirt freshman year, Applewhite found himself in the starting role after just two games when the team’s No. 1 quarterback, Richard Walton, got hurt. Applewhite hit the ground running, achieving an 8-2 record in that first year as a starter. He wrapped up a fantastic 1998 season by giving the Longhorns their first Cotton Bowl Victory since 1982. For his efforts, he received the Big 12’s Offensive Freshman of the Year award.

Texas won nine games in each season between 1998 and 2000, but Applewhite found himself in competition for the starting QB job after highly-touted prospect Chris Simms arrived in 1999. Simms took the job away from Applewhite during the 2000 season, but when Simms had a disastrous performance with four turnovers in the 2001 Big 12 Championship Game, Applewhite was called on to relieve him and almost generated an incredible comeback.

His team fell just short of the conference title, but Applewhite had done enough to earn a start in the upcoming Holiday Bowl. It ended up being one of his best games with the Longhorns, as he threw for a school-record 473 yards and four touchdowns. After several back-and-forth possessions, Applewhite produced a game-winning drive that made him an easy choice for the game’s MVP award. It was a great way for him to finish his college career.

Applewhite went undrafted in 2002 and eventually signed with the New England Patriots. His NFL experience didn't last long, however, as he quit prior to training camp so that he could focus on a coaching career. Applewhite’s Longhorns years saw him throw for a total of 8,353 yards and 60 touchdowns, which both are still the third-best career marks in the Texas football record book.

  1. Sam Ehlinger

Seasons at Texas: 2017 to 2020

Sam Ehlinger enjoyed a very productive few years at Texas. He was the only player in school history to throw and/or run for more than 35 total touchdowns in multiple seasons. After being forced into the deep end of the pool as a freshman, Ehlinger showed good composure and skill as both a passer and rusher.

He really hit his stride as a sophomore in 2018, passing for 3,292 yards and 25 touchdowns, while giving up just five interceptions. The Longhorns made it to the conference championship game that year but lost to Oklahoma on a day when Ehlinger had a hand in four touchdowns.

The Longhorns bounced back from that disappointing conference championship loss by upsetting the Georgia Bulldogs in the 2019 Sugar Bowl. Texas entered the game as a 13.5-point underdog but ended up winning 28-21. Ehlinger, the game’s MVP, was key to the victory, as he threw for 169 yards and rushed for three touchdowns.

Texas didn’t enjoy as much team success over Ehlinger’s final two seasons at the school, but the QB turned in some good performances. He was named to the All-Big 12 Second Team in 2020 and finished his college years with some very impressive stats. His career totals of 11,436 passing yards and 94 touchdowns both rank second in school history. His 3,663 yards in 2019 are also the second-best single-season mark by a Texas quarterback.

Ehlinger was selected in the sixth round of the 2020 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts, where he is still a member of the team as its third-string quarterback. Of all the active Texas Longhorns players in the NFL, Ehlinger is the only one at the QB position.

  1. Bobby Layne

Seasons at Texas: 1944 to 1947

Bobby Layne oversaw a glorious period of Texas football, leading the team to unprecedented success. Like many players from his era, Layne wasn’t just a quarterback. He was also known as a standout kicker and punter.

Layne is remembered as one of Texas’ most successful quarterbacks, having been named to the All-Southwest Conference Team every year from 1944 to 1947. He helped the Longhorns to three top-15 rankings with the best one coming in 1947. During Layne’s senior season, the Longhorns lost only once and finished fifth in the season-ending AP Poll. Their only loss came against the SMU Mustangs, and many observers felt that the 10-1 Longhorns were the team most deserving of the national title that ultimately went to a 9-0 Notre Dame team.

Layne’s most iconic game for Texas came in the Cotton Bowl at the end of the 1945 season. The Longhorns beat the Missouri Tigers, as Layne contributed every single touchdown and four field goals. Texas’ 40-27 win secured Layne’s place in the Longhorns’ history books.

Layne would be recognized as a Second Team All-American in 1946 and a Consensus All-American in 1947. In 1968, he became a member of the College Hall of Fame.

The former Texas QB went even further in the pros and won three NFL championships with the Detroit Lions. He was a two-time First Team All-Pro selection, a six-time Pro Bowler, and a two-time NFL passing leader. It was no surprise that after such a glittering career, Layne was inducted into the Professional Hall of Fame one year before entering the college Hall.

  1. James Street

Seasons at Texas: 1967 to 1969

James Street was the perfect companion for legendary Texas head coach Darrell Royal. He executed the wishbone offense to perfection, utilizing his arm to baffle opponents who also had to account for his speed and athleticism as a rusher.

After a couple of limited appearances in 1967, Street caught a break in 1968 when he took over from Bill Bradley, who had turned in an abysmal performance in the season-opener. Street racked up points with ease, but could not get the team a win in his debut as a starter. However, it was the last time Street would lose a game at Texas. What followed was a remarkable two-season stretch where the Longhorns built up what became a record 30-game winning streak.

Texas finished among the top three teams in the AP Poll at the end of both the 1968 and 1969 seasons. The latter year was the more impressive, as the Longhorns stormed to an unbeaten season and a national championship. In addition to his regular season success, Street showed his postseason poise by leading Texas to a 21-17 comeback victory over Notre Dame in the 1970 Cotton Bowl game.

Street won the Cotton Bowl’s Offensive Outstanding Player award for his performance against the Fighting Irish, adding to a list of accolades that included a spot on the All-Southwest Conference Team. He would later be inducted both the Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame and Texas Sports Hall of Fame.

Street was responsible for the Longhorns’ great success at the end of the 1960s. He was also an incredible multi-sport talent who had an impressive college baseball career. Drafted into the major leagues by the Cleveland Indians, he opted for baseball rather than football at the pro level, but his career ended after just one season because of injury.

  1. Colt McCoy

Seasons at Texas: 2006 to 2009

Colt McCoy earned a reputation as a precision passer and intelligent quarterback during his prolific Texas Longhorns career. McCoy was able to learn from the best during his redshirt year, watching from the sidelines as Vince Young took the Longhorns to an unbeaten season and national championship.

Early in McCoy’s redshirt freshman season, it was clear that the Longhorns had acquired another stellar quarterback talent. He became the first freshman QB to start and win a Texas season-opener since Bobby Layne and would later go on to break a school record with six touchdown passes in a single game against Baylor. An injury later in the season risked his being shut down for the year, but McCoy returned to throw two touchdowns in the Alamo Bowl at the end of his very good first season. He was the MVP of that bowl game and was also named the Big 12 Freshman of the Year.

Coming off his impressive first year, McCoy entered his sophomore season with a lot of hype. He put up some good numbers in 2007, but it wasn’t until 2008 that he really started to have success. Over the course of the 2008 and 2009 seasons, McCoy led Texas to a 25-2 record. The Longhorns defeated Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl after the 2008 season and went one better by winning the Big 12 Championship in his final year as a starter.

Unfortunately, McCoy’s college story had a heartbreaking end. He was forced to leave the 2010 BCS national championship game due to injury, and the Longhorns went on to lose to Alabama. The 37-21 final score has left many fans Texas fans thinking that the Longhorns would have been crowned champions had McCoy had been able to stay in the game.

Nevertheless, it was an incredible college career. McCoy was a First Team All-American in 2008 and 2009 and also won the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year award in 2009. In addition, he finished in the top three for Heisman Trophy voting in each of his final two seasons.

McCoy will forever be remembered as a favorite of Longhorns fans. His 13,253 career passing yards and 112 career passing touchdowns make him a firm No. 1 in the school’s record books. He also holds Texas records for the most passing yards in a single season, the most TD passes in a single season, and the most TD passes in a single game. Like Young before him, McCoy’s No. 12 jersey was retired by the University of Texas.

Following his illustrious college years, McCoy was selected by the Cleveland Browns in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft. He was never able to establish himself as starter at the pro level but did enjoy a successful 12-year NFL career as a backup QB.

  1. Vince Young

Seasons at Texas: 2003 to 2005

Vince Young’s time as Texas’ starting quarterback might go down as one of the most incredible stretches in the college game’s history. Young was a dynamic playmaker who left school for the pros as an undeniable hero. He had a dangerous combination of size, speed and arm talent, as well as an uncanny ability to extend plays with his legs and create incredible “wow” moments.

It took awhile for Young to find his footing in the college game. He redshirted his freshman year, before alternating with Chance Mock during the second half of the 2003 season. He passed for 1,155 yards, six touchdowns and seven interceptions in that first season, making more of a name for himself as a rusher by carrying the ball 135 times for 998 yards and 11 touchdowns.

By the 2004 season, everyone saw just how special Young could be. The Longhorns went 11-1 with Young as their full-time starting QB and ended the year with both a top-five ranking and their first-ever Rose Bowl appearance. Young threw for 1,849 yards and 12 touchdowns that year, while also rushing for 1,079 yards and 14 more TDs. The Longhorns defeated Michigan in the Rose Bowl, setting the tone for an even better season in 2005.

After losing just one game in his first year as Texas’ No. 1 quarterback, Young didn’t lose any in 2005. He inspired the Longhorns to an incredible season that saw them win the Big 12 Championship Game by a whopping 70-3 score against Colorado. That rout set up a highly-anticipated national championship game against the USC Trojans, who had been labeled by many analysts as the greatest college football team of all time.

USC’s reputation meant nothing to Young, who threw for 267 yards, rushed for 200, and ran in three TDs to help the Longhorns defeat the No. 1-seeded Trojans. Young was named the championship game’s MVP -- wrapping up a truly incredible season that saw him pass for 3,036 yards and 26 touchdowns, while also rushing for 1,050 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Texas lost just one game during Young’s two seasons as the Longhorns’ starting quarterback. A Consensus All-American and the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year for 2005, Young went on to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2019 and the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame in 2018. The University of Texas has also retired his No. 10 jersey.

Young continued to display his special talents in the NFL. He was the Offensive Rookie of the Year with the Tennessee Titans in 2006 and was also named to two Pro Bowls. That was as good as it got for Young at the pro level, however, as he couldn’t manage to replicate the highs he experienced in college. Nevertheless, he will always be remembered by fans as one of the greatest Texas Longhorns football players of all time.

Parameters of Rankings

These Texas Longhorn quarterbacks have been ranked based on their success during their years in the school’s football program.

Bet on College Football Odds at Betway

Find season-long college football odds on the Betway sportsbook. You'll find all the latest spreads, totals, moneylines, and college football futures. Or call it how you see it with our live betting in-play. All your NCAAF betting needs are covered at our online sportsbook.

Visit Betway’s college football picks page for picks and predictions throughout the season.

Betway Sports Betting States