Ryan Radcliff for years has defied conventions of a quarterback, whether it was his producing of astounding numbers in high school that left newspaper copy editors scrambling to verify their accuracy, or his insistence to adhere to drinking laws, or his using precious downtime from college football to participate on mission trips.
Radcliff, a fifth-year senior at Central Michigan who will face University of Toledo today at the Glass Bowl, is the big man on campus who also happens to be the big man in his church group. The Tim Tebow of the Mid-American Conference, Radcliff's legacy at Fairview, where he twice threw for at least 650 yards in a game to set the top two marks in Ohio’s state history, resonates not only in the school's trophy case. As a sophomore he was a pioneering leader of Fairview's Fellowship of Christian Athletes club, serving as a magnetizing force to attract other students to the morning sessions.
"It wasn't us picking him because he was the quarterback," FCA organizer and middle school principal Bob Lloyd said. "We picked him because of the kind of kid he was, the work ethic he had, and the way he conducted himself around the high school. The fact that he was the star quarterback was just frosting on the cake."
Radcliff, who is working toward his third 3,000-yard campaign with the Chippewas, remains involved in FCA, attending meetings every Wednesday evening in the visiting locker room at Kelly/Shorts Stadium. The group, partnering with a nearby church, schedules a mission trip every year coinciding with CMU's spring break. Radcliff was part of a team that traveled to Atlanta to engage with the homeless and underprivileged kids. He visited a children's home in Rock Hill, S.C., the following year to meet with neglected children, a trip that included a stop in Charlotte where Radcliff helped conduct a soccer camp.
Last year he was in Siesta Key, Fla. — "which doesn't seem like much of a mission trip," he quipped — where he assisted with a Habitat for Humanity chapter.
"Spring break, when everyone else was going down to Cancun, and this place and that place, we're putting groups out and going to mission trips," Radcliff said.
Had he traveled to a traditional spring break destination, Radcliff might have found the experience to be dull. He never drank alcohol until he turned 21, he said, and even now his nights of imbibing are scarce.
"There are times we'll go out and hang out with other guys on the football team," Radcliff said. "They'll say, 'Drink with us,' and I'm like, 'Nah, I'm good.' There's nothing good that's going to come out of it, in my opinion."
Radcliff, the Division V co-offensive player of the year during a senior season at Fairview in which he threw for 64 touchdowns, is second in CMU annals in passing yards and touchdown passes. His predecessor, Dan LeFevour, holds virtually every quarterback record at the school.
After struggling at the start of this year, Radcliff has elevated his play.
He led the team to a furious fourth-quarter comeback in a win at Iowa two weeks ago and is coming off of a 332-yard, two-touchdown performance in a loss at Northern Illinois.
"I've had a chance to watch him and see his career blossom, and he's playing like a fifth-year senior quarterback should play in a system," said Toledo coach Matt Campbell.
Local church youth groups are invited to today's game, and Radcliff had planned to greet one of them until a scheduling conflict forced the party to back out. It would have been an opportunity for Radcliff to reintroduce himself to members of Crossroads Church in Napoleon, of whom he and CMU teammate Cody Pettit, a Patrick Henry graduate, once met.
Radcliff, who is on track to graduate in May with an accounting degree, hopes to play football professionally. If that plan doesn't materialize, he has a solid fall back plan. Ernst & Young in Detroit have extended him an offer to start working in September. If he can clear room in his schedule, Lloyd would love for Radcliff to return to Fairview to speak to the FCA chapter he helped champion several years ago.
"We kind of set him up there and say if you want to emulate somebody, this is an example," Lloyd, a 1979 Toledo graduate, said. "A kid that's not afraid to share his faith, not only at the high school level, but he has taken that to the college level. We still point to him as somebody you ought to model yourself after."
COMMITMENT: Toledo picked up a commitment from Winchester, Va. offensive lineman A.J. Bolden. Bolden, who is the 15th member of the 2013 class, was previously committed to Buffalo.
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