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."