Ben Roethlisberger: An Athlete's Athlete

Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers

Introduction

As an assistant high school basketball coach in the late 1990s I had heard of the exploits of Ben Roethlisberger and some of those exploits were quite amazing.

Earlier in the decade I had worked as an engineer for a local television station in Toledo, Ohio and while there I often followed the regular news and sports news especially since I worked with the news and sports reporters everyday.

Being a former high school and college athlete myself I was particularly interested in the current local sports figures.

After leaving there in the mid 90's I continued to follow local sports athletes in that I was also a high school basketball coach it gave me an opportunity to scout players and teams that we may end up playing.

It was in those viewings that I spotted a local football phenom who played for Findlay High School in Findlay, Ohio named Ben Roethlisberger. I couldn't help but notice him because he was in the highlights every week.

When I first started paying attention to him he was playing wide receiver and you could tell even then there was something very special about this tall kid out on the end of the line of scrimmage.

Roethlisberger in high school

Football Fame

As a junior in high school Roethlisberger played wide receiver. Being that the head coach's son, a senior, was playing quarterback it was decided that he could best help the team at wide out.

Ben caught 57 passes for 750 yards which included seven touchdowns as a junior which is not shabby by any means. But he was destined to play quarterback and when he did the results were amazing.

When Roethlisberger assumed the quarterback position his senior year he had not played that position since he was in middle school and as he quickly found out he had a lot to learn in a short time.

It wasn't long before Roethlisberger was putting up eye-popping numbers. before it was all over he threw 54 touchdowns and racked up more than 4000 yards passing in just one season as signal caller.

Those statistics easily broke school and state records for passing yards and put "Big Ben" on the college football radar screen.

Three Sport Athlete Ben Roethlisberger At Findlay High School

Hoop Dreams

As hard as it may be to believe, as good as Ben Roethlisberger was in football he was better in basketball.

In basketball Roethlisberger could play all five positions. When he entered high school he actually envisioned himself going to college on a basketball scholarship because he was that good.

On the hardcourt Roethlisberger was a matchup nightmare as our team found out. His size, agility, quickness and ball skills made him a difficult person to guard.

He torched us for 20 plus points and double figure rebounds but that was not unusual. As a senior Roethlisberger averaged 26 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists per game while playing point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward and center.

After watching Roethlisberger on the football field I was not surprised though because he displayed the same athleticism on the gridiron.

Big Ben's basketball prowess garnered the attention of several college programs and earned him all-league and all-district honors but he chose football.

Roethlisberger At Miami University (Ohio)

Red Hawk Roethlisberger

By the time that Ben Roethlisberger reached the campus of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio his accomplishments and abilities were well known. It was pretty much acknowledged that he was a star in waiting.

At 6'5" tall and weighing in at a scrapping 185 pounds however, it was obvious that Roethlisberger was not physically ready to play quarterback at the college level. So his coaches decided to red-shirt him his freshman year to give him time to bulk up his body and hone up his knowledge on how to play the position in college.

When Ben hit the turf in his sophomore year it was not long before he displayed the crowd-pleasing football skills that everyone knew he had.

In his first full season as starting quarterback Roethlisberger threw for 3,100 yards while completing 63% of his passes accounting for 21 touchdowns against only 2 interceptions.

In the next two seasons his numbers steadily climbed until his third year where he threw for 4,400 yards and 37 touchdowns while completing 69% of his passes with 10 interceptions.

In three years Ben Roethlisberger had thrown for 10,800 yards and 80 touchdowns completing 65% of his passes. His total of 23 interceptions might be a tad high to some but considering the number of passes he was throwing (about 33 per game) that is not a bad number.

Ben threw just over 400 passes per season in a 12 game schedule for a total of 1,304 passing attempts in his career. That's "airing it out" as they used to say.

These statistics along with Roethlisberger's intangible skills as a leader and field general made him a prime prospect for the NFL.

He opted out of playing his last year at Miami and entered himself into the NFL draft. Seizing on the opportunity to get a quality quarterback that they could slowly groom for the starting position the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Ben Roethlisberger with the 11th pick in the first round of the 2004 NFL draft and the rest, as they say, is history.

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