The Iowa State football program rode the arm of David Archer in his two seasons as the Cyclone signal-caller in 1982 and 1983. The junior college transfer posted two of the most prolific passing seasons in ISU history, etching his name into the Cyclone record book as one of the greatest quarterbacks in school history.
The Cyclone coaching staff signed the Soda Springs, Idaho, native out of Snow Community College (Utah), where he earned JUCO All-America honors and ranked fourth nationally in passing in 1981. Archer stepped right in and had a solid junior season, throwing for 1,465 yards to lead ISU to a 4-6-1 mark in head coach Donnie Duncan’s final season with ISU.
Jim Criner took over coaching duties for Archer’s senior season and left no doubt that the Cyclones would be a passing team in 1983. Archer teamed up with receiver Tracy Henderson to form one of the best offensive threats in school history. Archer broke virtually every single-season school passing record in 1983, as the Cyclones tied for fourth in the Big Eight Conference (3-4). Archer set school marks in pass completions (234), attempts (403), yards (2,639), total offense (2,698), touchdowns (18) and lowest interception percentage (.029). He led the Big Eight and ranked eighth nationally in total offense while his favorite target Henderson caught a then-school record 1,051 yards, ranking third nationally to help him earn All-America honors. In one of Archer’s best games, he threw for a then-school-record 346 yards against the vaunted 1983 No. 1-ranked Nebraska “scoring explosion” team, helping the Cyclones put up the most points (29) against the Cornhuskers in the regular season. He also threw for 300 yards in ISU’s thrilling 38-35 victory over Kansas, helping him earn Big Eight Player of the Week honors.
When Archer’s career ended, he ranked No. 1 in the ISU career record book in both passing yards (4,104) and completions (359) in just two seasons. His 2,639 passing yards and 2,698 yards of total offense his senior season are still the second-best single-season marks in Iowa State history.
Archer was hoping his outstanding senior season would warrant a look from the pro scouts. He was drafted in the ninth round of the USFL draft by the Denver Gold, but was not called upon by an NFL team. Archer opted to not sign with USFL and chose to sign a free-agent contract with the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons. His decision paid off, making the Falcons’ roster in 1984. The following season, Archer played in all 16 games and led Atlanta with 1,992 passing yards. In 1986, Archer earned the starting QB job and promptly led the Falcons to a 5-1-1 record after seven games. For the Falcons’ surprising start, Archer was named NFC Player of the Month for September and kept the Falcons rolling until an injury ended his season with five games remaining. He finished the year with 2,007 passing yards and 10 touchdown strikes in 11 games, throwing for a career-high 350 yards against the New York Giants. The mobile Archer proved to be one of the better running QBs in the league, ranking at the top of the NFL in QB rushing yards in both 1985 (347 yards) and 1986 (298). Archer played five more seasons in the NFL, finishing his final years with the Washington Redskins, San Diego Chargers and Philadelphia Eagles.
Archer continued his professional career after the NFL, joining the World League of American Football in 1992. He played one season with the Sacramento Surge, earning league MVP honors and MVP of the World Bowl after leading the Surge to the World League title. Archer shifted leagues once again, heading to the Canadian Football League. In his first season with the Sacramento Gold Miners, Archer threw for 6,023 yards, a total that ranks fourth on the CFL single-season passing charts. He is one of just three players in professional football history to throw for 6,000 or more yards in a season. Archer ended his CFL career in 1998, throwing for 20,671 yards and 120 touchdowns for four teams in five seasons.