Ornstein, Gus : Jews In Sports @ Virtual Museum

Ornstein, Gus

After a college career that included stints at both Notre Dame and Michigan State, as well as Rowan University Ornstein has been on the roster of several NFL teams. In the 2000 preseason, Gus was a backup (although he was later cut) for Miami behind another Jewish quarterback, Jay Fiedler. An excellent athlete, Gus was selected in the 20th round by the Seattle Mariners in the 1994 Major League Baseball draft.

After spending the 2001 season in NFL Europe with the Scottish Claymores, Ornstein signed with the B.C. (British Columbia) Lions of the Canadian Football League in 2002. As the team's third-string quarterback, Ornstein went 1-2 for 12 yards during the year. The Lions were 10-8 on the season and lost to Winnipeg in the conference semifinals. One of Ornstein's teammates was defensive tackle, Noah Cantor. In 2003, Ornstein played in the Arena League for Albany.

Birth and Death Dates:
b. November 23, 1974

Career Highlights:
In 1994, Gus was redshirted while a freshman at Notre Dame when starting quarterback Rob Powlus was injured. In the eighth game of the season, Irish coach Lou Holtz called on Ornstein to play in the second half of what would turn into a 58-21 victory over Navy. Holtz said he played Ornstein, who went 2-5 for 21 yards with one touchdown and one interception, because he wanted Gus to get experience in case Powlus could not play the next game.

Powlus did play and Ornstein lost a year of eligibility. Ornstein later said, "I wanted to be redshirted...I was shocked when he (Holtz) called my name to go into the game. It was exciting to throw the touchdown, but then I started to think and realized what it meant...by playing in that game, I was no longer a year behind (Powlus) in eligibility. We both had three years left. Obviously, they were committed to him. I thought I could be the starter after he left...I didn't want to be Ron's backup my whole career."

In the spring of 1995, Holtz gave Gus a release from his scholarship and Ornstein transferred to Michigan State. After sitting out a year, he played sparingly in 1996 as a third-year sophomore when the starting quarterback was injured. Against Louisville, Gus completed 21 of 37 passes for 237 yards in a 30-20 loss. Still, Ornstein did not see much action for the Spartans. In three seasons, he completed 43 of 74 passes for 512 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions.

In 1998, Ornstein left Michigan State and transferred to Rowan College, a Division III school in hopes of interesting NFL scouts. He said, "I spoke with a couple of NFL scouts who said that I needed to get out on the field, so I knew I had to look somewhere else." Gus shined at Rowan, leading his team to a 10-3 record and spot in the Division III championship game. He completed 160 of 272 passes (59%) for 2,189 yards and 12 touchdowns and was nominated for the Melberger Award, given to the Division III player of the year. In the championship game, Gus completed 17 of 40 passes for 200 yards and one touchdown in a 44-24 loss to Mount Union; it was Mount Union's 42nd consecutive victory.

In 1999, Gus was signed by the St. Louis Rams before being released in August. The Indianapolis Colts signed him in February, 2000, but he was released before the start of the season. On August 17, 2000, the Miami Dolphins signed Ornstein to back up Jay Fiedler, but he was again released before the season. Gus has also been on the roster of the New York Jets and the Kansas City Chiefs, but has never played in the NFL.

Tenafly, New Jersey

Career Dates:
Ornstein played quarterback at Notre Dame in 1994, at Michigan State in 1996-1998, and for Rowan College in 1998.

Physical description:
6'3", 232 pounds

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Jewish Sports Review, September/October 2000 issue (Vol. 2, No. 8, Issue 21)

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