When people hear the name Ben Roethlisberger, a slew of questions immediately come to mind: How many Super Bowls did Ben Roethlisberger play in? And, of course, how big was Ben Roethlisberger in his prime? Now, each of those questions comes with a fairly impressive answer — three, two, and huge, respectively — but they don’t paint the complete picture of the storied athlete’s list of accomplishments. In fact, long before he ever picked up a football (and well after his final NFL snap), Roethlisberger was distinguishing himself as an athlete, a scholar, and so much more. Never heard those stories? That’s about to change right now.
Ben Roethlisberger: Triple Threat
While it seems like the former Pittsburgh Steeler was born with a football in hand, among his first athletic loves were basketball and baseball. About his time growing up in Findlay, Ohio, his former high school coach Cliff Hite told USA Today, “He was the most incredible point guard that I’ve ever seen; oh my gosh. He was our all-time leading scorer in high school. If a small guy was guarding him he’d take it inside and if a bigger guy was on him he’d go right by him. Basketball was his favorite sport at the time, but in the fall of his senior year, after we got done with seven-on-seven, he told me, ‘I think football might be my ticket outtahere.’ I said, ‘Ya think?’”
In the same senior year when Roethlisberger led his football team to a 10-2 record and was named league and district player of the year, the student-athlete averaged 26.5 points, nine rebounds and five assists per game as a point guard on the basketball court. And, not to be forgotten on the baseball diamond, Roethlisberger assumed the positions of shortstop and team captain, maintaining a .300 batting average.
While he was a strong athlete in all three sports, Roethlisberger’s record-setting senior year football stats convinced college scouts that this was his true athletic calling. He was recruited by the coaches at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and, in just three seasons with the RedHawks, Roethlisberger set multiple records, including most completions, passing yards, touchdown passes, and 300-yard games.
So impressive was his college football career that the NFL came knocking before Roethlisberger graduated. Yet, as the former QB explained while speaking at the Ignite 2022 conference, “I left school early. I left college early to go to the NFL. How can I tell my kids how important school is if I don’t graduate? So I went back and got my college degree and felt like that was important.”
A Higher Education
When Roethlisberger left university to begin his career as a pro athlete, he was just four courses shy of earning his degree. Completing four classes while maintaining a rigorous schedule as the quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers was no easy feat. In fact, according to Melissa Chase, associate dean for Miami’s School of Education, Health & Society, completing those courses took Roethlisberger a full seven years, due to severe limits on his free time. Yet he remained undeterred by the slow progress and, in May 2012, graduated with a Bachelor of Science in education.
Academic adviser Chase said, “I admire Ben’s persistence and desire to graduate.” And her devoted student chimed in: “I’m proud of this school, I’m proud of the ‘M’ and I’m proud of the education I’ve received here.” Miami University President David Hodge stated, “Ben is well known for his athletic accomplishments, but what is significant today is that he comes from a long line of student-athletes at Miami who have excelled both on the field and in the classroom.”
And Brad Bates, Miami’s director of athletics, summed up the importance of the moment — and the essence of Roethlisberger’s out-of-football persona — when he noted, “The magnitude of Ben Roethlisberger’s graduation today is extensive. It represents his extraordinary perseverance and focus in a profession of enormous physical and mental demands. It represents the power of his dedication as well as the humility of ‘walking’ with his fellow Miami graduates as they celebrate this exceptional intellectual achievement.” Perhaps most importantly of all, his return to school to wrap up unfinished business was a decision demonstrating that, ball in hand or not, Ben Roethlisberger will always have a new accomplishment to celebrate and a new avenue through which he can shine.
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