Dan Orlovsky: Indianapolis Colts QB's Long Journey to His First Win

Eli Nachmany@EliNachmanyCorrespondent IIIDecember 22, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 18:  Dan Orlovsky #6 of the Indianapolis Colts throws the ball during Colts 27-13 win over the Tennessee Titans in the NFL game at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 18, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

It's been a year to forget, maybe a career to forget, for Dan Orlovsky. He's 28 years old and the NFL almost passed him by.

On December 18, 2011, Orlovsky got his first ever win as an NFL starting quarterback.

Starting on the verdant football fields of Shelton, Connecticut, this signal-caller made a name for himself as a sophomore, starting at varsity quarterback in only his second year in high school.

Football has a funny way of giving people everything and taking it all away. Ironically enough, Orlovsky led his high school team to a 12-0 record as a senior.

He didn't lose a game.

Highly recruited out of high school, Orlovsky took an offer to play Division I-A football at the University of Connecticut, declining offers from Purdue and Michigan State despite their prominence in their respective conferences.

This quarterback from Shelton, Connecticut would become synonymous with losing, ineptitude and failure at the highest level—but no one knew it yet.

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An injury to UConn's starting quarterback opened the door for Orlovsky as a freshman and he parlayed that chance into a four-year starting job. His best year was as a junior, where he threw for 3,845 yards and 33 touchdowns to an acceptable 14 interceptions.

That year in 2003, Connecticut finished 9-3.

As a senior, Orlovsky regressed a bit, but he was still able to guide the Huskies to a solid 8-4 record.

MIAMI - OCTOBER 5:  Dan Orlovsky #14 of Connecticut tangles with Miami defender Jamaal Green # 55 as he looks to pass during the NCAA football game at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida on October 5, 2002.  The Miami Hurricanes defeated the Connecticut Hus
Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images

By all accounts, Dan Orlovsky was a winning quarterback who was able to put other teams away and take home key victories.

By all accounts, what has happened in the NFL career of Dan Orlovsky should never have happened.

He was no superstar recruit going into the 2005 NFL Draft, but he was still picked in the fifth round and was expected to eventually become a solid spot starter when needed.

Toiling a few years as a backup, Orlovsky finally got his chance in 2008 with the Detroit Lions.

Those Lions couldn't win a game for anything, losing at an unprecedented rate and eventually finishing 0-16. Orlovsky's first start was low-lighted by him running into the back of the end zone for an eventually determinant safety.

Orlovsky went on to struggle through a loss-laden season and forever cemented his legacy as "that Lions quarterback who ran into the back of the end zone and went 0-16."

He forever cemented his legacy as a loser.

How do you give another chance to a player like that? What team, in their right mind, would ever start Dan Orlovsky, "Mr. 0-16?"

The equally inept Indianapolis Colts would hand Orlovsky the reins; it would be up to this quarterback to save the city of Indianapolis from an 0-16 season.

DETROIT - OCTOBER 26:  Dan Orlovsky #6 of the Detroit Lions stands under center Dominic Raiola #51 during the game against the Washington Redskins on October 26, 2008 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Domenic Centofanti/Getty Images)
Domenic Centofanti/Getty Images

In Week 15, with the Colts 0-13, the UConn graduate finally got his team in the win column.

Playing the tough Titans, Orlovsky didn't have a big game by any means, but he handed the ball off to Donald Brown (who had a huge game in his own right) and managed the game well.

Orlovsky didn't have a great game by any means, but he protected the ball, not throwing any interceptions, and the Colts quarterback even found the end zone with an 18-yard strike to Reggie Wayne.

The Titans needed a win to put themselves in big-time playoff contention but the Colts, those winless Colts with their winless quarterback, finally won a game.

From the fields of Shelton, Connecticut, Dan Orlovsky finally won a game in the NFL.

The Colts may finish 1-15 and after 2011, Dan Orlovsky might never start another NFL game, but he can always look back on December 18, 2011 with a smile.

He won a game.