With Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder making his first start this past Sunday, it appears all the rookie quarterbacks expected to take over as his team's starter is in place (I'm banking on the Tennessee Titans sticking with Matt Hasselbeck over Jake Locker) for the season.
Before you start to think this column is just another in a long line of recent nationwide columns about how the times are changing in the NFL as far as quarterbacks are concerned, how success is expected much earlier than the "old days" and blah, blah, blah...let me stop you. This is just about one rookie quarterback and his possible "contributions" to a certain "group" often stereotyped against (I'll admit I have participated in such stereotyping).
While fans and experts alike are praising Cam Newton, the Carolina Panthers number- one pick who is putting up Pro Bowl-caliber numbers, this guy is just helping his team win games with average statistics. While the ladies swoon over Blaine Gabbert, the Jacksonville Jaguars "Cali Boy" who's drawing comparisons to Sunshine from "Remember the Titans," this guy is (likely) just making sure he has on a high enough SPF to prevent sunburn (cheap shot, I know). That guy, or man rather, is Andrew "Andy" Dalton: a true "Ginger" hero.
Dalton has the Cincinnati Bengals, a team that finished 4-12 last season, sitting near the top of the AFC at 4-2. This guy ain't no fake "strawberry blonde" kind of ginger either. Do a Google Image search on him; he definitely got accused of stealing souls as a kid. He's just stealing big-time victories now, such as his team's week five win over the previously undefeated Buffalo Bills, a game in which he threw for 298 yards and a touchdown.
But I don't think Dalton should be a ginger's main man just because of his football prowess; he is proudly epitomizing what it means to be a ginger and somehow separating himself from the stereotypes at the same time.
Let's look at how he's the apotheosis of a ginger: 1) his looks, obviously, 2) he went to college at Texas Christian University, which competes in the Mountain West Conference, the most ginger conference in that no matter how well the conference does (see: Boise State), all the big-time conferences (brunettes, blondes, etc.) keep it down, 3) he now plays for the Bengals, the most ginger team in the NFL (no explanation needed here, just look at their colors) and 4) he was picked in the second round, a ginger round for a quarterback to be selected (it basically says you were good in college, but no one trusts you enough to give you big-time money from the start).
Now, the segregating factors: 1) he's athletic and built like an ox (6'2", 215 pounds), 2) people root for him, or at least I do (I've always rooted for underdogs, but not usually when they have red hair) and 3) he doesn't go on YouTube and defend his people (sorry, that was a cheap shot).
The Bengals invested a lot in Dalton, having traded previous starter Carson Palmer to the Oakland Raiders just last week. Whether the team's faith pays off or not won't likely be determined for a few years, but I know at least I will be watching and hoping (and praying?) he gives gingers a hero worth cheering for.
Columnists' aside: I have nothing against gingers; my aunt is one, my orientation adviser was one (hey Joey!) and my roommate is only attracted to them. No hard feelings red-headed guys and gals.