Football

North and South Carolina produced 8 of this week’s NFL starting quarterbacks

Former Northwestern High quarterback Mason Rudolph took over for the injured Ben Roethlisberger as the Steelers’ starting quarterback.
Former Northwestern High quarterback Mason Rudolph took over for the injured Ben Roethlisberger as the Steelers’ starting quarterback. aburriss@heraldonline.com

Carolina is home to a struggling NFL franchise (read Panthers) that labors to put butts in seats.

But the Carolinas? That’s where NFL quarterbacks are made.

As a result of Eli Manning’s poor play for the Giants, and Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger needing season-ending elbow surgery, the number of NFL starting quarterbacks this week who played high school or college football in North and South Carolina has jumped to eight.

Roethlisberger’s backup is Mason Rudolph, who before having an illustrious career at Oklahoma State, graduated from Northwestern High School in Rock Hill, S.C., just across the state line from Charlotte. Rudolph passed for 10,986 yards, 132 touchdownsand 29 interceptions across three prep seasons. As a high school senior in 2013, he completed 76 percent of his passes and threw for 64 TDs to only eight interceptions.

Charlotte native Daniel Jones, the No. 6 overall draft pick by the Giants this year out of Duke, played football and basketball at Charlotte Latin. New York named him the starter Tuesday. In high school, Jones threw for almost 7,000 yards and 98 touchdowns.

In addition to Jones and Rudolph, these starting QBs developed into standouts while in the Carolinas:

Russell Wilson, Seahawks

Led N.C. State to bowl games as a freshman and junior before finishing his career at Wisconsin, where he led the Badgers to the Rose Bowl. With the Wolfpack, he passed for 8,575 yards, 76 touchdowns and 26 interceptions, and rushed for 1,083 yards and 17 scores.

Philip Rivers, Chargers

The future Pro Football Hall of Famer started all four years at N.C. State with bowl berths during the 2002 and ‘03 seasons. Had a monster senior year where he threw for a career-best 4,491 yards, 34 touchdowns and seven interceptions while completing 72 percent of his attempts.

Jacoby Brissett, Colts

He’s the third former Wolfpack standout on this list, playing his final two seasons in Raleigh (2014-15) after transferring from Florida. Andrew Luck’s early retirement led to Indianapolis handing him a two-year contract worth $30 million.

Mitch Trubisky, Bears

A breakout junior season at North Carolina in 2016 impressed Chicago enough to take him No. 2 overall in the following spring’s draft. During that ‘16 season, he completed 304 passes for 3,748 yards, 31 touchdowns and six interceptions while leading the Tar Heels to an 8-5 record and a loss to Stanford in the Sun Bowl.

Deshaun Watson, Texans

Was a two-time runner-up in Heisman Trophy voting at Clemson (2015-16) and accounted for 12,102 total yards and 116 touchdowns in his three seasons. After beating Alabama in the 2016 national championship game, he was selected No. 12 overall by Houston.

Gardner Minshew, Jaguars

Before he became the perfect fit for Mike Leach’s offense at Washington State — and well before he was receiving a $1 million endorsement offer from a porn website — Minshew played two seasons at East Carolina, passing for 3,487 yards , 24 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Minshew took over in Jacksonville for the injured Nick Foles.

Others

There are more starting quarterbacks out there who have looser ties to the region — the Eagles’ oft-injured Carson Wentz was born in Raleigh before moving to North Dakota, and his backup, Josh McCown, is an assistant coach at Myers Park in Charlotte — but as far as guys who came to prominence here, eight is a strong number.

No matter how bad the Panthers are, at least this can give the Carolinas something to be proud of Sunday.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story omitted Minshew from this list

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