NORTHERN ILLINOIS QUARTERBACK JORDAN LYNCH HAS experience with being overlooked. He was so undersized as a teenager (5' 9" 170 pounds) that he got up in the middle of the night to pack more food—peanut butter sandwiches were his favorite—into his body. Coming out of Chicago's Mount Carmel High, he got only one FBS scholarship offer to play quarterback, and at Northern Illinois he didn't get a chance to start until this, his redshirt junior season. He is humble, more comfortable deflecting praise than being in the spotlight, so he usually lets his play on the field speak for itself. But insult his team and he just can't hold back. When ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit told viewers during the BCS selection show that the Huskies' Orange Bowl berth was "an absolute joke," the now 220-pound Lynch uncorked his 354th pass of the season, hurling across the school's athletic auditorium one of the celebratory oranges the coaches had passed out.
It hit one of the projection screens dead on, of course.
"That one felt pretty good," he said afterward. "It was just instinct [after hearing] people disrespect your family."
Lynch has a right to be offended. If he were a college team unto himself, he would rank 96th in the FBS in yards per game (364.1), 71st in total yards (4,733) and first in yards per play (7.6). This season he was responsible for three quarters of his team's offense. With his 160-yard showing in the Mid-American Conference title game, he broke the FBS single-season record for rushing yards by a quarterback—he's at 1,771—two weeks after becoming the first NCAA player to pass for 400 yards and rush for 150 in a game.
Although Lynch was not invited to the Heisman ceremony as a finalist, missing the trip to New York City wasn't for lack of trying by the school. In October, NIU mounted a massive campaign ("Jordan Lynch for 6"), and the week before the finalists were announced coach Dave Doeren, who has since taken over at N.C. State, wrote voters calling Lynch "inspirational" and touting his "relentless energy and passion for competition."
Lynch appreciates that praise, of course, but he is also using the negativity directed toward his program as fuel. "There are always going to be people out there that don't want us to make it, but they made the rules that way," Lynch said. "All we did was win."