Quarterback Mike Lefflebine broke 10 records during his St. Lawrence career, including most career touchdown passes, with 59.

The Records Came Tumbling Down

Mike Lefflbine sets new standards at quarterback for Saints

Kelly Vergin

Every high school student has a tough decision to make when it comes to selecting the right college. Some have the opportunity for a second chance, and for two football stars from two different eras, that second chance was an opportunity to come to St. Lawrence University. Moreover, the first established quarterback records that the second recently broke.

In the mid-1970s, North Country native Kirk Dempsey '77 transferred from Division I Villanova to St. Lawrence. The geography was reversed for Mike Lefflbine '16, who came to St. Lawrence —nearly six hours from his hometown of Greenwich, Connecticut—after a red-shirt year at nearby Division I Sacred Heart.

“Coming to St. Lawrence was the best decision I ever made,” said Lefflbine in the middle of his final season. “This second chance at St. Lawrence has made me appreciate everything so much more."

Despite starring on Weeks Field nearly 40 years apart, Dempsey and Lefflbine have quite a bit in common. Both started their college careers with higher aspirations athletically, but it did not take them long to realize that St. Lawrence was the perfect fit. For Dempsey it was a matter of returning to a comfort zone, while for Lefflbine it boiled down to finding the university that was the best fit both academically and athletically.

“I wanted a great education and the chance to play football, and St. Lawrence offered both,” said Lefflbine. “I settled for Sacred Heart because it was close to home, but after a year or so there, I wasn’t really feeling comfortable in the program.”

The coaching staff at St. Lawrence had taken interest in Lefflbine in high school. “One of his high school teammates came to St. Lawrence and has a good experience," says Head Coach Mark Raymond M'96. "So when things didn't work out at Sacred Heart, he was looking for a new home and fortunately he had some good feedback about St. Lawrence and we were able to get him."

“My best friend, Camryn Ferrara ‘14, was telling me good things about St. Lawrence,” Lefflbine explains. “I came to watch a game and knew it was the right place for me.”

From that point on, Lefflbine started to rewrite the St. Lawrence record books with his throwing arm. He finished his career as the all-time leader in passes attempted and completed, yards gained and touchdowns thrown in a career and
a season, as well as total offense yards in a season and career. In all, the 2014 Liberty League co-Offensive Player of the Year owns more than 10 St. Lawrence records.

Many of those were held by Dempsey. “I actually didn’t know all the records I held,” says Dempsey, who guided the Saints to the 1976 NCAA semifinal game. “For me, it was not about the stats and the records. We were just out there having fun and trying to win games. My teammates were some of my best friends in college, and many are still good friends today.”

Like Dempsey, Lefflbine was not aware of the records until he started to break them. After a touchdown pass in the Merchant Marine game at the end of the 2014 season, he came off the field to be greeted by Assistant Coach Dan Puckhaber shaking his hand. “I was a little confused,” he recalls, “and then they told me I had broken the record for TD passes in a season.”

That year, Lefflbine was listed as a senior on the St. Lawrence athletics webpage since it was technically his fourth year of college and he was getting ready to graduate in the spring. But upon further review, he was eligible to play one more season, in fall 2015.

“It was an easy decision,” said Lefflbine mid-season. “I wanted to get that league championship. At the end of last year everyone was asking me if I was coming back and I checked with Coach (and Assistant Athletics Director Mike) Howard ’87 on my eligibility and we confirmed that I was OK to play one more season. I just needed to work with the coaches and some of the faculty to see how I could make it happen.”

Other than the touchdowns-in-a-season standard that Lefflbine eclipsed in 2014, the rest of the records came tumbling down during the 2015 campaign. He overtook Dempsey for career touchdown passes midway through, and kept going. He broke his own record four times in a 38-21 win at Springfield, for example.

“I honestly don’t think about records,” Lefflbine said, echoing Dempsey. “The way our offense has played, we just go out there and have fun.”

“I think it’s great that Mike is breaking (the records),” Dempsey said. “It means the team is getting better.”

The two quarterbacks have never met face-to-face, but if they ever do, they will have a lot to talk about.

“I would love to meet Kirk someday,” said Lefflbine. “It sounds like we have a lot in common. I’m sure we would talk about football, but I would be interested to hear how it was to play at SLU in the 1970s and what it was like to win back then and go to the NCAA playoffs.”

“I have not been keeping track this year, but I will now,” said Dempsey when con- tacted with three games left in the regular season. “I want to see how his career ends and I hope it is in the NCAA playoffs.” 

Press-Time Update:

Both quarterbacks’ wishes came true. The 2015 edition of the Saints won the Liberty League championship, as Lefflbine (along with a lot of other people) had hoped, and with it an automatic appearance in NCAA Division III post-season play, as Dempsey (and many others) had hoped. There, St. Lawrence fell to powerful Mount Union College in the first round, finishing the season 8-3.

"I honestly don't think about records. The way our offense has played, we just go out there and have fun." Mike Lefflbine '16