In the college football world, the MAC doesn’t always get a ton of respect. It’s generally regarded as one of the weakest conferences at the FBS level. However, the league has produced a surprising amount of pro talent over the years, even at the quarterback position. That’s not to say the MAC is a pipeline for Hall of Famers, but it’s worthwhile to point out some of the NFL quarterbacks that came out of MAC schools.
Bruce Gradkowski, Toledo
Nobody is going to confused Gradkowski with a Pro Bowler, but he hung around the NFL for a long time after a standout career at Toledo. He was drafted in 2006 and was still on an NFL roster as recently as 2016, meaning he spent over a decade in the league. That’s not too bad for a sixth-round pick from a lowly MAC school.
Charlie Batch, Eastern Michigan
Not only did Batch play his college football in the MAC, but he also played on a bad MAC team at Eastern Michigan. However, he stood out enough to be a second-round pick and spent well over a decade in the NFL. His years as a starter in Detroit early in his career weren’t great, but Batch did help the Lions make the playoffs in 1999. The Steelers were also happy to keep him as a backup for over a decade and even got a couple of Super Bowl rings out of the deal.
Byron Leftwich, Marshall
While Marshall is no longer in the MAC, they were when Leftwich played there. He actually helped raise the profile of the league for a few years before becoming the 7th overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft. Leftwich looked like a star on the rise during his third pro season until suffering an ankle injury and missing the end of the regular season that Jacksonville finished 12-4. An injury the next season hindered his career further, relegating Leftwich to backup duties for the rest of his career. In the end, he played 10 seasons and threw for over 10,000 yards before going into coaching.
Chad Pennington, Marshall
A lack of arm strength limited Pennington’s scholarships, leading him to Marshall, where he helped the Thundering Herd make the transition to the 1-A level. By the end of his college career, Pennington finished fifth in the Heisman voting before becoming a first-round pick and spending 11 seasons in the NFL. He led his team to the playoffs four times and twice won NFL Comeback Player of the Year honors. For a guy with limited arm strength, Pennington did well for himself, finishing his career with over 100 touchdown passes and a passer rating of 90.1.
Ben Roethlisberger, Miami
Odds are, no MAC quarterback will ever top what Roethlisberger has accomplished in the NFL. He’s pushing two decades in the NFL, winning Rookie of the Year and two Super Bowls along the way while being named to the Pro Bowl six times. When he’s done playing Roethlisberger will go down as one of the best quarterbacks of his generation, a Steelers legend, and a no-doubt Hall of Famer, on top of being the best quarterback to ever come out of the MAC.