From the Minor Leagues to College Football

Perhaps you knew someone like this in college: The guy who enrolled a year or two before you but was still there when you visited campus a couple of years later. People would joke about his age, maybe make a reference to Van Wilder.

Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden is sort of like that guy, except his classmates probably don’t make fun of him since he has led the Cowboys to an 8-0 record and No. 3 BCS ranking. Weeden is 28, which makes him older than 15 starting quarterbacks in the National Football League, including Aaron Rodgers, who is in his seventh year in the league and owns a Super Bowl ring.

Weeden is a dark horse for the Heisman Trophy, and if he won he’d be the second oldest recipient: Florida State’s Chris Weinke, the 2000 Heisman winner, was a few months older. Like Weinke, Weeden was a minor league baseball player before he enrolled in college.

The New York Yankees drafted Weeden, a right-handed pitcher, in the second round of the 2002 draft, nine spots ahead of current Yankee star Curtis Granderson.* He was sent to the Dodgers in the trade that brought pitcher Kevin Brown to New York, and finished his baseball career in the Royals organization. In five years he posted a 5.02 ERA and never made it past advanced Class A.

*It seems like the Yankees draft a lot of college football players—some out of high school and others after they’ve already played college football. In addition to Weeden, they have drafted John Elway, Daunte Culpepper, and Drew Henson. I’d like to look into this more.

While Weeden wasn’t so adept at throwing to a catcher, he has excelled at throwing to wide receivers. He enrolled at Oklahoma State in 2007 and became the starter last season, setting the single-game record for passing yards. This year the senior—and I mean that in more ways than one—ranks in the top 10 in the country in touchdown passes (22), yards per game (338), and completion percentage (71). He is on pace to become the Cowboys’ all-time leading passer.

I have been thinking about whether it is fair to allow a player on the field who is a decade older than some of his competitors. There are definitely some advantages, though being older does not guarantee success. Take Ohio State’s Joe Bauserman, another pitcher-turned-quarterback. After three years in the minors, Bauserman arrived in Columbus in 2007. At 26, he opened this season as the Buckeyes’ starting quarterback partly because his coach valued his experience—presumably, not just in the Ohio State system but in life in general. It didn’t exactly work out. When the Buckeyes’ offense sputtered, Bauserman was replaced by an 18-year-old true freshman in late September, and has since been demoted to third string.

Two years ago, Boston College received a commitment from a 25-year-old who had spent six years in the minors, Dave Shinksie. A few weeks into the season he was named the starting quarterback, but he lost the job last season. Shinskie is now 27 and riding the bench for the 2-7 Eagles.

What do you think? Should the NCAA enforce some sort of age limit for college athletes? Do older players, particularly quarterbacks, have an advantage?

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