Except for being caught on TV excitedly cursing after the Super Bowl victory, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was almost flawless Sunday in being named the MVP and getting a trip to Disney World.
A little more than five years earlier, he did not have quite as good a game in the Football Championship Subdivision title game loss to Appalachian State at Chattanooga’s Finley Stadium, however.
But he did get to visit the Tennessee Aquarium on the Wednesday before the game for a team dinner and gathering!
When the University of Pittsburgh transfer and Delaware Blue Hen senior quarterback played against the Mountaineers from Boone, N.C., on Friday night, Dec. 14, 2007, on ESPN2, he was much better known by the NFL scouts than by the average football fan in Chattanooga.
In fact, several scouts were on hand to watch him.
However, players such as ASU running back Kevin Richardson, running Mountaineer quarterback Armanti Edwards and Delaware running back Omar Cuff were flashier fan and media favorites, according to articles in the Chattanooga Times Free Press at the time.
And Mr. Flacco did not do a whole lot in the game to change that perspective. Unlike fellow small college quarterbacks Terry Bradshaw of Louisiana Tech and Steve McNair of Alcorn State when they played UTC at Chamberlain Field in 1969 and 1994, respectively, he did not necessarily look like a can’t-miss pro prospect.
In the game, which was the 11th FCS national title game to be played at Finley Stadium and the third since artificial turf was installed, Appalachian State easily defeated the Blue Hens, 49-21, to claim its third title in a row.
The Mountaineers, who had upset Michigan earlier in the year, had 556 yards of total offense in the victory in front of 23,010 fans.
Although Mr. Flacco’s completion percentage was not great – 23 out of 48 passes – he still managed to throw for 334 yards and a touchdown in the loss.
And one so-so night in Chattanooga did not derail him. With his 6-foot-6 frame and natural and accurate arm, he has since gone on to a very successful NFL career, which culminated with the Super Bowl win over San Francisco.
Among the other well-known personalities who also took part in the national title game when it was in Chattanooga from 1997-2009 were future Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, who won in 1997 with Youngstown State; future Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson, who won with Georgia Southern in 1999 and 2000; and Jack Harbaugh, who won with Western Kentucky in 2002.
Of course, Coach Harbaugh became more famous as the father of this year’s Super Bowl coaches, John and Jim Harbaugh. Jim had actually been on his father’s staff the year before the Hilltoppers won it all in Chattanooga.