No one ever said the NFL was known for its job security.
The chances of a NCAA football player making it to the NFL are 1.8 percent, according to statistics released by the NCAA.
Ohio University Bobcats athlete's chances are closer to zero. Ohio football lettermen have a 0.03 percent chance of being drafted by the NFL, according to statistics drawn from the Bobcats’ 2008 media guide.
Of a total of 822 all-time lettermen, 27 Bobcats have been drafted in school history.
In 2009, only one—Bobcat safety Michael Mitchell—was drafted by an NFL team.
The Oakland Raiders drafted Mitchell in the second round as the third overall pick from the Mid-American Conference (MAC). With overall pick No. 47, Mitchell is the highest pick from Ohio University since 1948, when the Los Angeles Rams took Gene Ruszkowski as the 44th pick overall.
Ohio Bobcats Director of Media Relations Jason Corriher would call Mitchell a diamond in the rough.
"(Ohio) is mid-major football, and we’re a smaller school. Certainly it’s harder to attract top-level student athletes. We do the best with what we have, but sometimes you find a diamond in the rough," Corriher said.
Mitchell was predicted to go as an undrafted free agent, so the second round pick came as a surprise to the NFL and to Ohio University. From the moment he was picked, draft analysts were skeptical of the Raiders’ choice.
Despite his underdog status in the NFL, Mitchell brings the total number of former Bobcats on active NFL rosters to five.
Last year, Bobcat defensive tackle Landon Cohen was drafted in the seventh round by the Detroit Lions, the first Ohio player to be drafted since punter Dave Zastudil in 2002. Before that, an Ohio player hadn’t been drafted since kicker Mike Green in the 16th round of the 1976 draft.
As a drafted player, Mitchell is a step ahead of some other Bobcats looking to make it in the NFL. Many undrafted free agents from Ohio have seen their careers last months, or less.
“If you’re not drafted, the team doesn’t have responsibility for you. It’s very challenging (for the player),” Corriher said.
The turnover rate of first-year players in the NFL is approximately 27 percent. The average career life of an NFL player is three and a half seasons, according to the NFL Players Association.
Former Ohio running back Kalvin McRae was picked up by the Kansas City Chiefs as an undrafted free agent in April 2008, and his days of playing ultimate frisbee in a one-credit class seemed to be over as he headed for Chiefs’ spring training.
The team dropped him the same summer.
“It’s hard," McRae said. "It’s not a good feeling when something you worked really hard for doesn’t turn out the way you wanted."
The rest of the MAC seems to be throwing enough players against the NFL wall for some of them to stick.
This year five players from Kent State entered the NFL, one drafted and four as undrafted free agents. Temple also sent five players to the league. The Detroit Lions drafted safety Louis Delmas from Western Michigan as the 33rd pick overall and the Buccaneers picked up Western Michigan cornerback E.J. Biggers in the seventh round.
While the rest of the MAC is churning out Super Bowl victors like Ben Roethlisberger and James Harrison, Ohio went nearly 30 years without producing a draft-worthy player.
Since 2000, the MAC has produced a number of solid, playoff-winning quarterbacks for the NFL.
Among them are former MAC school Marshall alumni Chad Pennington of the Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneer Byron Leftwich. Former Kent State quarterback Joshua Cribbs now plays for the Cleveland Browns as a wide receiver and return specialist and Roethlisberger's glory days at Miami have turned into worldwide fame.
MAC teams' traditionally smaller offensive lines seem to have given these quarterbacks a competitive edge. Without a powerhouse line, quarterbacks are forced to pass the ball more often, making them more cautious of error and, in theory, more accurate. It doesn't hurt that many professional teams have a similar offensive setup. NFL teams no longer gloss over the MAC when looking for a solid quarterback.
Still, Ohio quarterbacks are not stepping up to the line like the rest of the MAC.
No Ohio quarterback has been drafted in all of Bobcats’ history.