Ben Roethlisberger, Miami of Ohio's gifted but relatively
unheralded quarterback, has heard a variety of suggestions on how
to raise his national profile. One fan recommended he refer to
himself as B.Ro. The concessionaires at Miami's Yager Stadium
thought it might help if they began selling a Roethlis Burger.
He nixed those and other ideas, mostly out of modesty but partly
because he realizes he doesn't need such gimmicks. His name is
well-known among NFL scouts, who generally agree that
Roethlisberger, a junior, will be one of the first quarterbacks
picked in whichever of the next two drafts he enters. Until then
he'll make a name for himself with numbers like the ones he put
up last Friday in a 56-21 win over Central Florida: 24 of 29 for
327 yards and five touchdowns. This season Roethlisberger has
thrown for 3,670 yards and 29 touchdowns for the No. 14 RedHawks
(11-1), who play Bowling Green in the Mid-American Conference
championship game on Thursday.
"I've started to get a little more media attention lately, which
is nice because it allows me to give my teammates some of the
recognition they deserve," says Roethlisberger.
The Miami media relations department has set up a website,
WhereHaveYouBen.com, devoted to listing Roethlisberger's
accomplishments and the words of praise he has received from
opponents and draft mavens. At 6'5" and 242 pounds,
Roethlisberger has the size and arm strength--as a freshman, he
threw a 70-yard Hail Mary to beat Akron--to grab scouts'
attention, and he's no plodder. He was agile enough to play point
guard and shortstop at Findlay (Ohio) High. He can even punt in a
pinch. He did so 11 times last season, pinning opponents inside
their 20 on nine of those kicks.
Roethlisberger, who was also recruited by Ohio State and Duke,
didn't play quarterback until his senior year in high school. He
was a wide receiver before then, and even now he and RedHawks
coach Terry Hoeppner consider him something of a beginner. "He's
played fewer than 50 games at quarterback," Hoeppner says. "Once
he has more experience under his belt, there's no telling what
he'll be capable of."
If he decides to make himself eligible for the draft, many NFL
experts project him to be the second quarterback taken, after Eli
Manning of Ole Miss. However, Roethlisberger steadfastly refuses
to discuss his plans until after Miami's season. "I'm having too
much fun right now to think about that," he says.
If Roethlisberger leaves, his linemen will certainly miss him,
not only because of his talent but also because he treats them to
pizza once a week. "I used to take them to a wings place, but
there's nights they'd put away 300 wings," he says. "I know some
pro quarterbacks buy their linemen Rolexes and things, but they
were breaking the bank with all those wings."
Given the appetite the NFL has for big, talented quarterbacks, it
probably won't be too much longer before Roethlisberger can
afford to take his teammates out for all they can eat.
TWO COLOR PHOTOS: GARY BOGDON Roethlisberger has passed for 3,670 yards and 29 TDs for the 11-1 RedHawks.
COLOR PHOTO: SHAWANO CLEARY/AP (BABIN) Babin (93)
Here are five other little-known players likely headed for the NFL
NAME, POS. SCHOOL
Jason Babin, DE W. Michigan
The 6'4" 276-pounder with 4.5 speed leads nation with 32 tackles
Ricardo Colclough, CB Tusculum
Though he plays in Division II, this hard-hitter could be a
Isaac Hilton, DE Hampton
Raw but strong at 6'5", 250, Hilton had six sacks in a game last
J.P. Losman, QB Tulane
The 6'3" Losman has a powerful arm; he threw for 3,077 yards this
Keith Smith, CB McNeese St.
The 6'0", 191-pound burner (4.4 in the 40) is the top cover
corner in I-AA.