BY MATT VENEGONI
Daily Sports Editor
Published November 11, 2005
Take a look around the NFL, and it's like a school reunion. Tom Brady, John Navarre, Brian Griese, Drew Henson and Todd Collins all hail from the school that "Hails to the Victors." But that's not the only thing these pros have in common; Michigan quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler had a hand in each of their developments.
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Loeffler has been integral in making Michigan the quarterback factory that it is today. But just 12 years ago, Loeffler looked as if he was going to be one of the first in the Wolverines' recent line of signal callers to play in the NFL.
Loeffler came to Michigan as a top-100 prospect from Barberton, Ohio. During his high school career, he set school records in career passing yards and touchdowns. As he began his career in Ann Arbor, Loeffler was regarded as one of the top-five quarterbacks entering the college ranks.
But all that changed for Loeffler in a game against his home state's school.
"I hurt my arm in the Ohio State game of freshman year," Loeffler said. "(Because of the injury), I really knew that I wasn't going to play until my junior year. I fought back, but (my shoulder) never really came around. I wasn't the same after it."
It was a torn labrum, an injury that perplexes even the best surgeons because it is difficult to detect; it usually derails careers for both quarterbacks and pitchers.
Unfortunately for Loeffler, his injury ended up ruining his career as a college quarterback.
"Anytime you get hurt and you're battling back ... it's a difficult deal whenever you're not physically able to do what you could in the past," Loeffler said.
But instead of taking the heartbreak and leaving football behind, Loeffler became a student assistant coach while he was still an undergraduate at Michigan. Here, he laid the groundwork to becoming one of the top young coaches in all of college football.
Breaking in at the graduate level is one of the most difficult aspects of starting a coaching career. But because of his injury, Loeffler got a head start on his coaching career.
"From that time on, I fell in love with the profession," Loeffler said.
With his playing career essentially behind him - although he continued to serve as backup quarterback - Loeffler concentrated on becoming a coach.
"It was phenomenal. I was able to start basically doing the graduate assistant work as an undergraduate," Loeffler said. "I was able to learn the ins and outs of the job, and the transition from student assistant to a graduate was quite smooth."
Michigan coach Lloyd Carr agrees: "Scot, because of his injury, got a very rapid entrance into the X's and the O's of studying the game from a technical standpoint."
Loeffler had the benefit of watching from some of the best quarterbacks that have come through the University of Michigan, including Griese and Brady. And Loeffler knew that he could learn from some of the best.
"The wonderful thing about playing quarterback here is that you're around a heck of a lot of talented players," the 30-year-old Loeffler said. "Even as a player here, you learn from the older quarterbacks: Elvis Grbac and Todd Collins when I was here. You get a great, great perspective of the position from watching those talented guys play. There's no question about it. I say this all the time - I believe as much as I helped the quarterbacks learn the game, I learned from them."
From the time of his injury in 1994 to 2000, Loeffler helped with the scout team offense and honed his own coaching skills. His hard work paid off when he was offered his first full-time coaching position at Central Michigan as the quarterbacks coach in 2000. But in the back of Loeffler's mind, he knew he wanted to eventually return to Ann Arbor.
"My ultimate goal was to some day have the good fortune to be asked back here," Loeffler said. "It's an absolute honor and privilege to coach here."
Loeffler got his wish in 2002, when Carr and the Athletic Department asked him to take over the helm as quarterbacks coach for the Wolverines.
Once Loeffler came back to Michigan, he really started making an impact on the quarterbacks. Much of John Navarre's growth in his three-plus years as a starter can be attributed to Loeffler. Navarre came to Michigan as burly defensive end/quarterback prospect that had potential but needed to be taught the finer aspects of being the man under the center.
With the help of Loeffler, Navarre developed into the Wolverines' first All-Big Ten first-team signal caller since Brian Griese in 1997.
"He meant a lot; he's a smart guy," Navarre said of Loeffler. "Any guy that gets to play for him is blessed. He has a passion for the game that can't be matched by anyone."
Because of his time as a quarterback at Michigan, Loeffler has a unique perspective on the privileges and burdens of being the focus of the Wolverines' offense while also juggling the pressures of school. It's for that reason that Carr and the rest of the coaching staff believe that Loeffler is one of the best quarterback coaches in the country.
"He's not only knowledgeable for his football abilities. He understands all the other things that go into being a quarterback here," Carr said.
Navarre's career is a great example of how much Loeffler means to the quarterbacks. Navarre struggled mightily his first year as a starter, but Loeffler was there to guide him the whole way. His efforts did not go unnoticed by Navarre.
"He's not just a quarterback coach mechanically and telling you to do things right," Navarre said. "He's a friend. He's a guy in your corner that you can count on. To have a guy like that is special."
Under Loeffler's guidance, Navarre set seven single-season passing records and six career passing records.
With the criticism that Navarre and now Chad Henne deal with, Loeffler stresses that it's not always about the mechanics of the quarterback.
"Just like any other position, great football players are able to be tough - that's mentally and physically," Loeffler said. "We can't worry about the criticism when things aren't going our way or when they praise us when things are going well."
Loeffler's ability to keep the quarterbacks grounded into what they hold important - what the people in Schembechler Hall think - Navarre and Henne have led Michigan to Rose Bowls the past two seasons. Sure, both had their highs and lows, but Loeffler has been there every step of the way.
"He really helps you out. He keeps a calm for you," Henne said. "He explains what happened and why it happened that way on the play. You couldn't ask for another coach like him. He's been there for the ups and downs. Really he has helped me develop as the person and player I am today. There's not a person that backs you up like him."
The way Loeffler has helped quarterbacks is now being noticed nationwide. Whenever a top quarterback recruit talks about Michigan, Loeffler is inevitably brought into the conversation. Even high school athletes know that the Wolverines have something special in Loeffler. During Henne's recruitment, Loeffler played a critical role in Michigan landing the Pennsylvania native.
"He was the No. 1 (reason)," Henne's high school coach Jim Contafio said. "Chad felt so comfortable around Scot Loeffler. And he felt that Scot Loeffler was the one who could take him to the next level."
Sometimes it looks as if Loeffler works too much. Players, both past and present, say that he spends as much time preparing for the games as anyone. Carr even jokes that he's told Loeffler to "go home a hundred times, but he doesn't seem to listen." Henne says that he spends as much time as possible with Loeffler going over film and learning how to dissect game tape as well as his coach does. And Henne's mother says Loeffler is "nut" when it comes to working hours.
But besides all the game tape, Loeffler tries to impart three things on a player before their time is over at Michigan
"No. 1, our goal, believe it or not, it is for them to graduate from Michigan," Loeffler said. "No. 2, do everything in our power at our position to help us win championships. And No. 3, it's to have the best group of quarterbacks in the country. That's something we've really strived to do at Michigan, and we will continue to do that in the future."
It's been 10 years since Loeffler received his last playing time in a Michigan football game. But in that time, he has helped catapult Michigan into the school that top quarterback recruits want to attend. Despite the disappointment of never getting to fulfill his expectations, Loeffler has set out to teach those who still can.
"Everything happens for a reason, and I firmly believe that," Loeffler said. "If I was meant to be the starting quarterbacks, I would've done that. ... Everything works out in the end."
Loeffler met his wife at Michigan, started coaching for the Wolverines, and now, for the school that gave him so much, he's trying to pay it back like a true "Michigan Man."
"It's a special place where you can coach at your alma mater and try to give back to your university for all the great things they've done for you," Loeffler said. "The fact of the matter is you will never be able to pay back for what Michigan can do for you. I'm trying like heck to pay them back, but I don't know if I will ever be able to do that."
Other Position Coaches
Jackson was the assistant head coach before being promoted to associate head coach in 2003.
Moeller is the son of former head coach Gary Moeller and was a co-captain and two-year starter at Michigan.
Campbell has coached three All-Americans during his tenure - David Terrell, Marquise Walker and Braylon Edwards.
Stripling is in his first season at Michigan, but he is quickly becoming known for his intense coaching style.
Herrmann is also the defensive coordinator; in 1997, he was named national assistant coach of the year.
Last year, English became the first coach in NCAA history to have two defensive backs earn consensus All-America honors in the same season.