Syracuse has had one of the most memorable runs of the 2016 NCAA Tournament. As a 10-seed that some thought shouldn’t have been in the field at all, they beat Dayton, Middle Tennessee State, Gonzaga, and Virginia to punch their ticket to Houston. Back in 1996, Jim Boeheim’s team had another incredible Final Four run, winning thrilling games against Montana State, Drexel, Georgia, and Kansas. They toppled future NBA players and Cinderellas on the way to a National Championship appearance, where they ultimately lost to a stacked Kentucky team featuring Tony Delk, Derek Anderson, Ron Mercer, and Antoine Walker.
That run never would have happened if Jason Cipolla’s jumper in the Sweet Sixteen against Georgia to send the game to overtime hadn’t gone down.
Not that one of his teammates was all that concerned. On the bench, just feet away from where Cipolla took his shot, a Syracuse walk-on knew it was good the second it left Cipolla’s hands. Normally that wouldn’t be all that special. There are walk-ons who play for every team. Except that this walk-on was the school’s starting quarterback, and would eventually be a six-time NFL Pro Bowler and have his number retired by the Philadelphia Eagles.