Try as he might, Cen. Michigan's LeFevour can't dodge spotlight
Dan LeFevour needs 382 yards to become MAC's all-time passing leader
Despite his prolific numbers and multiple billboard ads, LeFevour remains humble
If he manages to stay as hot this season, he may join the Heisman hopefuls
Dan LeFevour does modesty with every bit the same deft touch that has led to nearly 10,000 career passing yards. It's how he turns Central Michigan plastering a 30-foot-by-60-foot billboard featuring his likeness and the words "Run. Pass. Lead." on the side of Detroit's Comerica Park from an ego trip into him simply aiding the admissions office.
"Central Michigan has had enrollment increase with the cost of tuition going up ever year, so I think they're spending their advertising dollars well," LeFevour said. "I'm just what they use for that advertisement."
For the record, he is right. CMU's 2008-09 enrollment of 27,354 was its highest ever and it did come on the heels of his first Comerica Park ad. But while the Chippewas redshirt senior quarterback may have a firm grasp on where Central Michigan ranks in the U.S. News and World Report's College Rankings, he'd rather not hear about his own burgeoning statistics.
It wasn't until a reporter told him at the Mid-American Conference media day earlier this month that LeFevour learned he was just 382 yards away from breaking Byron Leftwich's all-time conference career yardage record. He is of course downplaying the record chase, noting that Leftwich wasn't a starter all four years he was at Marshall.
Try as he might, LeFevour has made it increasingly hard for himself to deflect the spotlight. He's flourished in the spread offense under Butch Jones and former coach Brian Kelly, becoming one of only two Division I players to throw for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards, joining former Texas quarterback Vince Young and Florida's Tim Tebow -- the quarterback he's most often compared to -- as the only players to pass for 20 touchdowns and score 20 other touchdowns in a season. His 11,702 total yards are the most among any active player, and if he averages 300 yards of offense a game this season (his career average), he'll end his college tenure ranked third in FBS history in total offense.
"It might be a little unfair to compare quarterbacks," said LeFevour. "But the one thing that we all have in common is we've all had success in our own systems."
Success did of course follow, but when LeFevour looks back at the first moments of his college career, he certainly wouldn't have predicted he would put up gaudy statistics. It was the 2006 opener against Boston College, and on the second play from scrimmage, a helmet-to-helmet collision had knocked Central Michigan starting quarterback Brian Brunner. Then-coach Kelly rushed in his redshirt freshman backup -- and on the ensuing play, LeFevour looked every part a freshman.
While attempting to call a protection check out of the shotgun, center Drew Mormino mistook LeFevour's call for the cadence and snapped the ball. Seeing it out of the corner of his eye, LeFevour stuck his hand out and the ball ricocheted back to running back Ontario Sneed.
"It was kind of a 'Welcome to college football, you better have your stuff together,'" LeFevour said. "I remember the center was yelling at me. The coach was yelling at the center. I was just trying to relax and take a deep breath."
LeFevour caught his own breath and then he went on to knock the wind out of the rest of the MAC, earning conference rookie of the year honors in '06 in leading Central Michigan to the conference title game. A year later he was MAC Offensive Player of the Year as the Chippewas made it two straight conference crowns. But LeFevour literally limped through his junior year, suffering injuries to both ankles, which kept him out of three games and robbed him of his game-breaking abilities.
"My body as a whole just functioned differently," he said. "from the throwing motion to being able to run and having confidence in making a cut up field." He threw for 2,784 yards, a career low, and his 592 rushing yards were 530 less than the season before. But even more glaring, as LeFevour sees it, were the three consecutive losses to end the season, one against Ball State that kept the Chippewas from a third straight MAC championship. Aside from a blowout loss at Georgia, Central Michigan's other four losses all came by seven points or less.
"I learned we can't beat ourselves and we gotta make plays," LeFevour said. "That's how you get [to the MAC title game.] Other than that ... stuff like [winning a championship] doesn't happen every year and it made me appreciate it that much more, and I'm glad I have one more chance to do something."
LeFevour has prepared himself. He's spent countless hours in the film room and added five pounds to his 6-foot-3 frame to bulk up to 230 pounds. He's healthy, and so are the Chippewas' chances of winning another MAC title. They were the overwhelming pick to win the West at the conference media day, boasting a defense that returns 10 starters and an offense that returns its top two receivers in Antonio Brown (998 yards and 6 touchdowns) and Bryan Anderson (865, 6 TDs). But of course, the biggest reason CMU is the easy pick to make it back to Detroit for the MAC Championship Game is arguably the best quarterback outside the BCS schools.
But while Bowling Green pushed Josh Harris and Omar Jacobs as Heisman Trophy candidates, and Marshall did the same with Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich and Miami (Ohio) with Ben Roethlisberger, Central Michigan is waiting to gauge the MAC's latest BMOC's Heisman chances until after its first two games at Arizona and Michigan State. So don't expect to catch word of the Chippewas sports information department mailing out any "Check Your LeFevour" thermometers until at least early October. But as LeFevour would spin it, CMU would only be doing its part, seeing how it would be the beginning of flu season and all.
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