After such a phenomenal high school career, could Ben Roethlisberger live up to the hype in college? We shall see…
A few late comers in the recruiting process were more or less snubbed by Roethlisberger as Miami of Ohio already has his loyalty. He showed up on his first day weighing just 185 pounds, quite a bit smaller than the Roethlisberger we all know and love.
He got to ride the bench as he was red-shirted his first year, just so he could get his feet wet in the system and bulk up a bit. Everyone in Oxford knew that the job was Ben’s the next year though, Miami would have a good reserve quarterback that knew the system sitting behind Ben in Ryan Hawk though.
In Ben’s first scrimmage with the Redhawks, against his own defense, he lit it up, impressing everyone on the windy day by completing 21 of 33 passes.
Ben got to start his first game after being named the starter, and did it under circumstances no quarterback wants to start a college career under. He got to play the Michigan Wolverines in The Big House. He didn’t look too bad against a heavy pass rush though. The mistake that stands out the most in this game is the fact that he threw an interception in the end zone after having a touchdown called back due to a holding call.
He ended up breaking his nose and getting a concussion in a 33-13 loss.
The very next game is when people started falling in love with the legend that is Ben Roethlisberger. He was knocked out of the game against Iowa and Hawk came in to replace him, only to be knocked out himself on his first play. Before Coach Terry Hoeppner could do or say anything he looked up and saw Roethlisberger putting his helmet back on. It was truly a testament to the man’s toughness and love for the sport.
Roethlisberger showed his intelligence and set school records against Hawaii that year, taking only a series to figure out a special made blitz package and throwing for 452 yards in a loss .
Miami didn’t so well that year, ending the season with an 7-5 record but the freshman phenom known as Ben Roethlisberger was voted MAC Freshman of the Year. He set 5 Miami records that season, including touchdowns (25), passing yards (3,105), completions (241), completion percentage (.663) and total offense (3,294 yards).
It was during this season that he was nicknamed “Big Ben” due to the play-call on his 70 yard Hail Mary pass against Akron to win the game, which can be watched .
The next season garnered much of the same as the previous, Miami finishing at 7-5 once more. The stand out game of this season was against the Thundering Herd of Marshall for the MAC title. Roethlisberger’s Redhawks lost to a Marshall team that was missing star quarterback Byron Leftwich. Ben did however lead them back from double digit scoring deficiencies twice during the game. This game also saw the Miami defensive coordinator Jon Wauford being led out of the stadium in handcuffs.
He broke two of his own school records that season as well, completing 271 passes for 3,238 yards. He also did some punting that year, downing 9 of 11 inside the opponent’s 20 yard line. Is there anything that he can’t do?
Roethlisberger was named a “Heisman Hopeful” prior to his junior season and made every one look foolish by throwing 4 interceptions in an opening day loss to the Iowa Hawkeyes.
That’s alright though, because he then proceeded to defeat every team that he faced for the remainder of the season. Miami finished at 13-1 that year. They also got over the hurdle of beating Marshall that year and beat them they did, 45-6.
Miami was also ranked for the first time since 1976, albeit it being 23rd.
Ben finished his college career by throttling the Louisville Cardinals, throwing 4 touchdowns en route to a 49-28 victory. The thing that stood out the most was his composure under pressure and his ability to not only evade sacks, but make throws on the run while evading those sacks.
Roethlisberger was hailed as the next Chad Pennington when he came to college, and Pennington’s success certainly helped him out by showing that the MAC does have players who can play in the NFL.
He decided that he had nothing left to prove in the game of college football and declared for the NFL draft even though he had one year remaining in his eligibility.
Ben and many others believed that he was the best quarterback available in a draft full of quarterbacks. Though, the tale of the tape showed that teams like the Chargers and Giants didn’t believe as much, as Eli Manning and Phillip Rivers were both taken ahead of him.
The Green Bay Packers wanted him to be Brett Favre’s final project prior to his retirement, they were picking at number 24. We all know that he didn’t last that long though.
The Steelers were coming off a rare season where they finished without a winning record, standing at 6-10. You’ve got to take into consideration how rare of a move this was for the Steelers, as the last time they picked a quarterback with their first rounder was in 1970 and that man is a Hall Of Famer, Terry Bradshaw.
Roethlisberger was more than happy to be drafted by the blue collar team, the location wasn’t far away from his hometown and it reminded him a lot of Findlay. He ultimately signed a 6 year deal with a $9 million signing bonus, which was less than half of Eli Manning’s signing bonus as the first round pick.
The man was drafted to be Tommy Maddox’s backup, we’ll see how that story goes in the next installment of this series.