Sometimes it’s all about the numbers. Since the beginning of the 2014 season, the Red Raiders’ football team has seen a recurrence of large numbers.
When 125 hopeful athletes took the field for summer camp none of them could have predicted that they were to become the first NAIA champions in 80 years of the program’s history.
Accompanying the team’s high count on the roster as well as the average 45.7 points scored a game, individual stats continue the trend of large quantity when equating digits to the Red Raiders and all they accomplished.
One player in particular rode his streak of prolific numbers to launch the underdog team onto it’s national title in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Senior Austin Dodge closed out his college career by writing his name in the record books, not only as the Rawlings Player of the Year, but also as the most prolific passer the nation has ever seen at the NAIA level.
After a redshirt season at Central Washington University, the Vancouver native spoke with, then, new coach Craig Howard on Memorial Day weekend of 2011, about leaving his home state to come to Ashland.
“He sold me on winning a national championship,” Dodge stated via text message, “He also told me that he wanted to assemble a team full of guys with strong character who were not just great athletes but good men.”
Preseason speculations projected that Dodge could take over some of the records if he continued his stellar passing, but none foresaw the numbers he was to rack up while asserting his dominance one last time against defensive backs across the country. When all was said and done, Dodge had passed up, literally and figuratively, multiple national records.
This season he threw for 52 touchdowns, which brought his career total to 154.
Out of 1,955 pass attempts Dodge was able to connect 1,253.
From the 47 games he started at QB he averaged 373.7 passing yards per game.
All of these numbers and honorary accomplishments have helped Austin Dodge get this far, but the 22 year old isn’t dwelling on the past, as he has set his sights on the 2015 NFL draft.
Since both Florida State’s Jameis Winston and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota have declared to enter the draft there is sure to be a large focus toward quarterbacks. Considering his numbers and talents, it’s not unbelievable to project Dodge going in the third round.
Current Seattle Seahawks QB Russell WIlson was not drafted until the third round when he entered the NFL in 2012. Interestingly enough, Wilson is Dodge’s favorite player.
“He is succeeding on the field despite his lack of size and makes weekly trips to the Seattle children’s hospital,” Dodge said, “He is an all around class act.”
Because the NAIA does not receive as much coverage as NCAA and it doesn’t have the multitude of athletes, not many players make it from smaller schools to the NFL. Dodge’s throwing proficiency is what he hopes will bring him to the highest stage of organized play.
“His success in passing can be attributed to a few factors,” Head Coach Craig Howard says, “We took a lot of ‘shots downfield’ in every game to utilize his deep ball. It was deadly not only because of his arm strength, but also due to the precision and placement he can put on such long passes.”
The 6’3” gunslinger was surrounded by fast and talented receivers who were able to make plays, as well as a strong offensive line to protect him, but Coach Howard also believes his fundamentals contributed to the low number of sacks the Raiders took.
“He has one of the quickest releases among quarterbacks I’ve seen at any level,” Howard continued. “His ability to scan the field and get the ball in the air is what makes him valuable to teams at the next level.”
While the senior has spent countless hours working on the field, he is just as successful in the classroom and will graduate this winter with a business degree and over a 3.6 GPA. Also, Dodge was selected as the marketing student of the 2013-2014 year.
“If a career in football doesn’t work out, I would love to be in a sales/marketing position preferably with a sports emphasis.” Dodge speculated, “Eventually, I would really like to open my own restaurant.”
Only a handful of Raiders in the school’s history have made the jump from Ashland to signing with the pros, and out of those, few actually saw play time. Even if the Austin Dodge does not get drafted to a team, he’ll likely take his accolades and accomplishments to do what he does best: scanning his downfield options to make the most successful choice.