Baltimore’s Flacco shares similar background with Eagles rookie Wentz
— There have only been six non-FBS quarterbacks selected in the first round of the NFL Draft since 1978, and two of them will share the same field this weekend.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, selected from University of Delaware in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft, and Philadelphia Eagles rookie quarterback Carson Wentz, picked second overall this past April from North Dakota State, will both be under center Sunday when their respective teams clash at M&T Bank Stadium.
Wentz is the first quarterback from a non-FBS school taken in the first round of the NFL Draft since Flacco. Steve McNair (Alcorn State) in 1995, Ken O’Brien (UC Davis) in 1983, Phil Simms (Morehead State) in 1979 and Doug Williams (Grambling) in 1978 are the only other signal callers taken the first round from lower-level collegiate programs.
Four of those five quarterbacks prior to Wentz went on to play in the Super Bowl, while Flacco (XLVII), Simms (XXI) and Williams (XXII) all earned Super Bowl MVPs.
“There’s been guys [who came before me from small schools] and you always look around the league at guys, at small school guys, and you have a little bit of a connection to them,” Flacco said. “I’ve always said when you’re playing, it’s all relative. I wasn’t playing at Delaware … with USC wide receivers. We had good wide
receivers but at the same time it’s all coming down to the [defensive backs] who we’re going against, the receivers we’re playing with and all of that. Every once in a while you get a guy who has the ability to play wide receiver, has the ability to play quarterback and has the physical strengths to [jump to the NFL].”
Flacco moved to the NFL after leading the Blue Hens to the 2007 NCAA Division I FCS football championship game as a senior.
“A lot of times, when you’re down at that level, guys can play football, they just don’t run 4.3 [-second 40-yard dashes]. You see a lot of guys that play really good football and every now and then you get a guy that can really play good football and he has intangibles that are there,” Flacco said. “As a quarterback, you’re still throwing into the same windows, you’re still mak- ing the same reads, you’re still doing all those things. So if you get a guy who can do that but he also feels like he has the physical traits to play in this league, then I think the jump isn’t any bigger than [from FBS schools].”
Flacco, who started every game for the Ravens as a rookie, won 11 regular-season games his first year in the NFL and helped guide Baltimore to the AFC championship game. Along the way, he became the first rookie in league history to win two road playoff games.
“I think every guy is different coming in, and every guys has their own background and their own thing. But having a guy that’s come from that level and to go in the way he did and have the success early, I think it just made people believe that it could be done again,” Wentz said. “I think he set the bar—set the stan- dard for that, at least in recent times. For me, I think that was huge. I think it was huge that teams would go and look at him as an example and go, ‘ There’s no reason this guy can can’t get it done, too’ [I have] a lot of respect for what he’s done and what he’s continuing to do.”
Draft analysts began comparing Wentz to Flacco before the Eagles rookie even took one snap in the NFL.
“It is hard to remember. But I know a lot of media people asked similar questions … and how that affected me. I think some guys would bring his name up, and I just always pointed like, “He went and did it. He went and did it right away,’” Wentz said of Flacco. “Again, everybody is different, but I think he has shown that it can be done.”
Wentz earned his way to the NFL after leading North Dakota State to back-toback NCAA Division I-FCS National Championships.
“The jump [to the NFL] is a big jump no matter where you’re coming from—Division III, FCS, FBS, SEC—it does not matter. Everyone is bigger, faster, stronger [in the NFL]. Obviously, we believe at the FCS level that there is a lot of good talent, and you are playing a lot of good competition. I think they just lack the depth overall that a lot of FBS teams have,” Wentz said. “But at the same time, everybody is different. Everyone is playing at a different level, everyone learns at a faster pace and different paces. Everybody is different. I didn’t really use that as an excuse; I actualy used that more as motivation. I thought what I did in college, in terms of running the offense and the protection calls and the run checks and being under center—all of those things—were in my favor, actually, going forward.”
Wentz, like Flacco, has started every game during his rookie season. After opening the year with threestraight wins, Philadelphia has lost eight of their last 10 games.
The Eagles’ rookie quarterback enters Sunday having completed 317 passes for 3,215 yards, 13 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
“First of all, you’re always learning. If I were to sit here and say I think I have it all clicked, that would be ridiculous. You’re always learning,” Wentz said. “I’ve never used, even in Week 1, the ‘rookie excuse,’ because I’ve always held myself to high expectations—high standards. Thats’s part of it, but I never fell in that category as, ‘Oh, I’m a rookie. I have a long way to go.’ But at the same time, you’re always learning. There are always things to learn.”
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Senior quarterback Joe Flacco (5) celebrates with a teammate following University of Delaware’s victory over Southern Illinois that sent the Blue Hens to the NCAA Division I FCS football championship. Four months later, the Baltimore Ravens selected Flacco with the 18th-overall pick in the NFL Draft.