Written By: Nick Holmes (@HoosierHolmes)
Having grown up in southern Indiana my exposure to Indiana Football came at quite a young age. My father and I would make the 30 minute car trip north to Memorial Stadium to watch Coach Mallory and his blue collar teams take on the rest of the Big Ten. However, it wasn’t until one the greatest Hoosiers of all time sported the Cream and Crimson (err black), did my fandom really takeoff.
September 12, 1998 began an era of Indiana Football as exciting as any, despite not making it to a bowl once. On a late summer Saturday evening a player by the name of Antwaan Randle El took the field for first time for the Hoosiers, mesmerizing fans, teammates, and the opposing defense on way to breaking the record for total offense by a freshman.
In that matchup against Western Michigan the native of Illinois threw for 385 yards and three touchdowns on 22 of 29 passing. He also carried the ball 23 times for 82 yards and three touchdowns and was named co-Big Ten player of the week as a result.
The rest of his collegiate career played out much the same, wowing audiences and breaking NCAA records on the regular. In fact, he was the first player ever in NCAA Division history to throw for 40 career touchdowns and run for 40 touchdowns. He also became the first player in college football to accumulate 2,500 plus yards for four consecutive seasons.
The dynamic athlete's name is etched all throughout the school's all-time offensive lists, including first in career total offensive and passing yards with 11,364 and 7,469 respectively, second in career rushing yards with 3,895, and second in career touchdowns with 45.
But his time in Bloomington was really only the beginning of his story, as he played nine seasons in the NFL, suiting up for the Steelers and the Redskins. In addition to possessing the highest passer rating in league history for any player with 20 or more completions, he also threw a touchdown in the Steelers' Super Bowl XL victory over the Seahawks in 2006.
So much more can and will be said about this dynamic athlete, one that is largely responsible for my gaining interest in college football. And while the Indiana Football program has not experienced near the success of other programs around the country, few of those team's can lay claim to a player as talented and exciting as Antwaan Randle El.