One thing you might have noticed about NFL quarterbacks is that so many of them come from small , even obscure, colleges. Phil Simms came to the Giants from Morehead State, Tony Romo attended Eastern Illinois and there are others from small college programs such as East Carolina, Marshall, Delaware etc. For all the domination of college football by perennial powers such as Alabama, Ohio State and USC there are few NFL quarterbacks who can claim any of them as an alma mater. There are reasons for that, ESPN radio talk show host Colin Cowherd tells us in his book You Herd Me!.
Cowherd points out the top fifteen college football programs in America have contributed only six QBs in the thirty-two team NFL, and half of those six are barely hanging in there. An even more telling statistic: the tiny University of Delaware has produced two Super Bowl winning QBs( Rich Gannon and Joe Flacco)- the same number as perennial powerhouse Notre Dame.
Cowherd’s reasoning is as follows: 1) College players can practice only for a limited number of hours because of NCAA regulations and the demands of schoolwork. Thus, the more talented shine in college but , at the pro level, talent becomes less important while work ethic, study habits and intellectual dexterity become more crucial. Elite talents with questionable work ethic( remember Ryan Leaf, Jamarcus Russell, Jeff George) fall by the wayside while hard workers prosper.2) A key ingredient in a NFL QB’s success is toughness. Big school stars usually have the luxury of operating behind a top-notch offensive line. They also have the support of a good running game and the best HS tight ends and receivers. Conversely, QB’s at smaller schools have to play with mediocre talent and as a result develop improvisational skills, resilience and toughness… all requisites for the pro game. 3) Psychologically, the small college players are more motivated to succeed because they are fighting to survive from Day one in training camp. They also play with a chip on their shoulder.
Makes sense, doesn’t it?
Cowherd’s book covers a variety of topics from Tiger Woods, Jerry Tarkanian, work-life balance, X-games, drinking in the stands, drafting for value not need, LeBron James unpopularity etc. Towards the end of the book, Cowherd quotes Frank Rich on how an opinion maker is sometimes forced into articulating stronger opinions than he actually has. This of course applies to sports talk show hosts and no one can accuse Cowherd of being wishy-washy. He has strong opinions on every topic and while you may not agree with him all the time , they are definitely thought-provoking and worth a read. For instance, he claims that character ( which results from a good family background) is only important in two positions, quarterback and point guard, because those two are leadership positions; the rest don’t matter. I’ll have to think about that one.
You Herd Me! I’ll Say It If Nobody Else Will. Colin Cowherd.( Crown, 2013)