Two years later, in 1995, Batch was named the Eagles' offensive MVP. Then, on Feb. 17 of the next year, Danyl, 17, was on her way to a friend's house two blocks from home when she was caught in the cross fire between rival gangs. This time when Charlie answered the phone, there was no greeting, just his mother on the line, unable to say the words Your sister is dead. Instead, she said, "Charlie, you have to come home right now. Right now."
"People say time eases the pain of something like that," said Batch after practice last Friday. "It doesn't. Time just allows you to accept it. It shatters you. I really didn't want to come back to school. But the one person who would have wanted me to pursue my dream of playing in the NFL was my sister, so I kept going."
Batch missed most of the 1996 season with a broken ankle. He returned to Eastern Michigan in 1997, thanks to a medical-hardship redshirt season, and flourished in the Eagles' pro-set attack under offensive coordinator Dan Henson, who had tutored Jake Plummer at Arizona State. Batch finished his college career with 7,592 yards passing, 53 touchdowns and a degree in criminology. The NFL combine in February gave him a showcase for his skills, and he leapfrogged over the likes of Michigan quarterback Brian Griese in the draft. What especially impressed Detroit were his knack for making big plays at crunch time and his mastery of the mental side of the sport, something he had worked on with Danyl. After high school games Batch would report to her for a critique. "She knew football," he says. "She'd sit in the cold and watch, and then come to me and say stuff like 'That throw to the back in the second quarter was dumb.' "
When Zorn evaluated Batch before the draft and again early last week when Ross was agonizing about making the quarterback switch, Batch was repeatedly dragged into the Lions' film room to watch tape and answer questions about his reads and reactions. He passed the pop quizzes with ease. "He understands offensive concepts as well as any player or coach I have ever been around," says Rasnick. In fact, with Detroit's season in the balance, it was Batch's mental edge—in attitude and aptitude—that persuaded Ross to dial his number.
Batch may have missed Ross's first attempt to get through to him, but he answered the call on Sunday.
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