Despite the team’s overall struggles this season, Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson is in the midst of a record-setting campaign in Fayetteville. The senior preseason All-SEC selection is climbing his way up a number of historical categories to establish himself as one of the greatest Razorbacks of all time.
With the victory over Florida in the Swamp on Saturday, Jefferson earned his 19th career win as a starting quarterback, moving him ahead of the late Ryan Mallett, who finished his career with 18 wins in 2009-10.
Jefferson now sits at seventh on the all-time wins list, approaching Tom Jones, who finished with 21, from 1980-82. This list is compiled solely of starting quarterbacks and does not include games that a player may have come in and played.
Jefferson already holds a number of the program’s all-time records, including a 65.4 completion percentage. He is responsible for 85 total career touchdowns, recently breaking Matt Jones’ previous record of 77, while also moving ahead of Jones with 9,339 combined yards, including 7,618 passing and 1,721 rushing. His 599 pass completions is also the most by a Razorback quarterback. Jefferson’s 64 TD passes is tied atop the list with Brandon Allen, and he is just 148 yards from breaking Tyler Wilson’s record of 7,765 career passing yards.
Granted, there are a number of other outstanding achievements by former Arkansas quarterbacks that have also personified greatness. Such as Fred Marshall being the only Razorback starter to win a national championship, in 1964, while Quinn Grovey remains the only QB to lead the program to two conference championships, winning back-to-back Southwest Conference titles in 1988 and 1989.
Joe Ferguson is still the highest drafted Hog to play quarterback in the NFL, selected by Buffalo with the 57th overall pick in 1973 – Matt Jones was drafted as a wide receiver in the first round (21st overall) by Jacksonville in 2005. Greg Thomas also blazed a new trail in 1985, when Head Coach Ken Hatfield named him the first black starting quarterback at Arkansas.
There were many other great individual achievements, as well, including Mallett’s school-record 3,869 passing yards in 2010. That was followed the next season by Tyler Wilson’s 510-yard single-game performance in a win over Texas A&M. Brandon Allen threw for a school-record 7 touchdown passes against Mississippi State in 2015, and was also the first quarterback to win consecutive bowl games – which Jefferson could still break this season with his third bowl victory in a row.
Here is a list of the Top 7 winningest starting quarterbacks in Razorback history:
1. Bill Montgomery - 27
2. Quinn Grovey - 26
The speedy playmaker from Duncan, Okla., made his mark at Arkansas running Hatfield’s flexbone offense to near perfection. He led the team to consecutive Cotton Bowls and finished his career with 4,496 yards and 29 touchdowns through the air, and 1,746 yards and 21 TDs on the ground.
Grovey went 4-0 as a freshman in 1987, while replacing injured-starter Greg Thomas. As the full-time starter in 1988, Grovey led the Hogs to nine of their 10 wins. Although John Bland got the win as the starter against Houston that season, a hobbled Grovey came in to orchestrate the late game-securing drive. He started all 10 of Arkansas’ wins in 1989, but was only able to muster three wins on a depleted Razorback squad in 1990.
He was later named to the Arkansas All-Century team, the Southwest Conference Hall of Fame and has been selected as a Southeastern Conference Football Legend.
3. Ron Calcagni - 25
No. 4 Matt Jones - 23
No. 5 Greg Thomas - 22
The San Angelo, Tex., product broke the color-barrier and made history in 1985, when he became the first black starting quarterback in Arkansas history. He finished his career with 1,971 passing yards and 11 touchdowns, while rushing for 1,169 rushing yards and 12 TDs. He also led the Razorbacks to the 1987 Orange Bowl.
Thomas started the first 10 games of his sophomore season, winning eight. He started all nine of the Hogs’ wins in 1986, then while battling injuries in 1987, he won five games as the starter.