GSU’s “White Tiger 2” dies at age 48

Grambling quarterback Michael Kornblau is pictured on the sideline with the legendary Eddie Robinson during the 1996 football season. (T. Scott Boatright file photo)

By T. Scott Boatright

Former Grambling State University quarterback Michael Kornblau, probably best known as GSU’s “White Tiger 2,” passed away on Oct. 28 at the age of 48.

Funeral services for Kornblau are set for 11:30 a.m. Sunday at Riverside Memorial Chapel, 180 West 76th Street, New York, NY 10023. Memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at for the Kornblau family.

Kornblau came to Grambling State in 1996, the second to last year of Eddie G. Robinson’s coaching career. Kornblau became GSU’s starting quarterback for the 1996 and ‘97 seasons, marking the first time a white player started behind center for the nationally-known Historically Black College and University’s football program.

But Kornblau was not the subject of the early 1980s TV movie “Grambling’s White Tiger,” which told the story of James Gregory, who played quarterback for Robinson from 1968-71 but never started a game for the Tigers.

Kornblau was also Grambling’s first Jewish quarterback before shying away from discussions about race and religion. All he wanted to do is learn to become a better quarterback, which was the reason he said he came to Grambling.

His roommate at GSU was Tigers kicker Ayman Nawash, an Israeli-born Muslim.

In a 1996 story published by Sports Illustrated, Kornblau told writer Michael Bamberger that  he never anticipated anyone even caring that a black school had a white quarterback. 

“He figured those days were over,” Bamberger wrote. “His father, Charles, a financially secure, 59-year-old retired lingerie manufacturer, likes to point out that Mike, born and raised on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, grew up in one of the most liberal congressional districts in the U.S.”

During his first three years of high school, Kornblau attended Browning, another Manhattan private school. But Browning had no football team, and Kornblau, who started his gridiron career playing  in a Harlem church league, was determined to become a quarterback.

At 6-5 with a strong arm, Kornblau looked like an almost perfect quarterback prototype, so he

transferred to New York City’s Dalton High School  in 1992, for his senior year because it had a football team.  He quickly earned the starting quarterbacking role but ended up missing more than half the season with a sprained right ankle. 

With no big-time college offers coming because of his inexperience on the gridiron, Kornblau enrolled at the University of Rochester, a Division III school, and played football and basketball as a freshman.

But Kornblau still dreamed of playing big-time ball. Back home in New York the summer following his freshman year, Kornblau tore a knee ligament while playing pickup basketball and  required surgery,

Kornblau  never returned to Rochester and started taking night classes at New York University while also working as a doorman at a West Side apartment building.

Eventually someone with GSU connections who had seen Kornblau play at Dalton ran into him in December 1995 and was surprised to learn that Kornblau had no football home, so the recruiter called Robinson, who agreed to take a look at the young athlete.

Robinson liked the potential he saw in Kornblau, and soon the young New Yorker was in Grambling practicing with the G-Men. 

Kornblau went to Grambling after being promised a chance to earn the Tigers’ starting job, which he did when GSU’s first string signal caller, Chiron Applewhite, suffered a broken arm in the 1996 season opener.

He guided the Tigers to a pair of 3-8 seasons in 1996 and ’97 before Robinson called it a career.

Kornblau then returned to Division III football and finished his collegiate football career as the starter for the University of New Haven.