IT'S not always easy for football teams from the Mid-American Conference to get the respect they deserve from the sports writers and coaches who vote in the national polls every autumn. But the National Football League knows all about the MAC and the individual talent that abounds there.
Two of the best quarterbacks in the recent history of the league - the University of Toledo's Bruce Gradkowski and Bowling Green's Omar Jacobs - moved into the professional ranks Sunday on the NFL draft's second day.
Jacobs was picked in the fifth round by the Pittsburgh Steelers and Gradkowski was a sixth-round selection by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Four other MAC players also were drafted, all of them ahead of Jacobs and Gradkowski. And a truly homegrown talent, Bedford High School's Chris Morris, a starter at Michigan State the last three years, was chosen in the seventh round by the Oakland Raiders.
For Jacobs, his selection by the Steelers had to be a bittersweet moment. After a dazzling sophomore year he was being touted as a sure first-round pick at some point in the future. But despite a serious shoulder injury that tarnished his junior year, he elected to leave BGSU a year early and enter the NFL draft.
With the benefit of hindsight, it was probably a mistake in judgment, but once eligibility is relinquished, it is gone.
Jacobs also will not be playing quarterback for the Steelers any time soon. Pittsburgh has its franchise quarterback in place - Ben Roethlisberger - which attaches a bit of irony to the Steelers' choice. Jacobs and Roethlisberger faced each other in college; now they're teammates.
And although Gradkowski might have pondered the prospect that he would be the MAC quarterback headed to Pittsburgh - his hometown - he may have inherited the better situation in Tampa. He'll learn under one of the NFL's best coaches, Jon Gruden, whose post-draft comments suggest the former Rocket will have a real shot.
Both young men have a chance to reaffirm the quality of MAC football. We wish them well.
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