Not since Kevin Costner heard the voices in 'Field of Dreams' has a greter secret come out of a small town than the one being whispered about the Miami Redhawks (Oxford, Ohio) junior, quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger. To use an overused cliche...he's the best player you've probably never heard of... You see, Ben doesn't play for a perennial, football power and he plays within an underappreciated league of talent, the MAC Conference. The talk of his talent may be in hushed tones now, but by the end of the season, those whispers may become a roaring chorus, the ripples of which might just lead this strong-armed quarterback to the Heisman trophy presentation at the end of the 2003 season.
OK...I know...it's July...a little too early to start hyping a player, especially from the MAC conference, but, hey, they called Costner crazy for building the field...let them call me crazy for building Roethlisberger's case while the football field's are still being primped.
Let's start with a comparison to one of the finalists from last year. Ken Dorsey, quarterback for the other Miami team, the Hurricanes. Let's compare their performances from last year. Dorsey had a 55.4% completion percentage, Roethlisberger was 64.4%. Dorsey threw for 3,073 yards and 26 touchdowns... Ben 3,034 and 21 TD's. Critics will point to the obvious. The competing opposition was much stronger for Dorsey. Well, using that logic, Roethlisberger wasn't throwing to Andre Johnson and Kellen Winslow or utilizing a running option like Willis McGahee to keep defenses off balance, either. And when the so-called competition was up to critical par, like Ben's game against Iowa last year, one of the champions of the Big Ten, his performance was quite favorable...33 of 51 passing (64.7%) for 343 yards and 2 touchdowns. The performance came in a 29-24 loss, but without Big Ben, one could argue that the Redhawks might have been given a Big Ten thumpin'.
And for those critics of the MAC conference, Byron Leftwich (Marshall) certainly received a lot of consideration last year and Randy Moss, also of Marshall, was a Heisman finalist in 1997. And exactly how many prognosticators would have put Ty Detmer down on their ballot prior to the 1990 season?
Tony Pauline scouts him as a "Big armed pocket passer with the abilities to make plays in or out of the pocket. Poised under pressure, looks off the safety and takes what the defense gives him. Possesses a terrific pump fake, drives his long passes down the field and smartly places his deep throws in front of the target, letting receivers run to the ball. Gets outside the pocket, makes plays on the move and loses nothing on his throws displaying zip on the short passes or driving the deep tosses while on the run. In complete control of the offense in every sense of the word and a true leader that makes good decisions and does not put his team in a bad spot". Roethlisberger's coach, Terry Hoeppner, describes Ben's greatest asset as his competitive spirit. That, and a cannon for an arm. With the spread offense and an experienced receiving corps, the table appears to be set for success. Can you hear it? The whispers are already starting to get louder.
Hey, Costner built his dream in Iowa and that turned out alright for him. Where will Ben begin his potential dream season? That's right...Iowa...August 30, 2003.
Why Ben Roethlisberger for the Heisman? Why not?
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