It's been a big offseason for Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. First he graduated from Miami University, and now he has been selected as one of six individuals to be inducted into the school's Athletic Hall of Fame later this year.
Roethlisberger, who played at Miami from 2001-03, holds all of the school's major passing records, including passing for 200 yards or more in all 14 games in 2003, also an NCAA record for most games in a season passing for 200 yards or more and consecutive 200 yards plus passing games.
Roethlisberger, the Steelers number one draft pick in 2004, was named Miami's Male Co-Athlete of the Year in 2001 and 2003 and the MAC Offensive Player of the Year in 2003.
"When they called and told me, it was an awesome honor," said Roethlisberger after Thursday's OTAs. "I am really proud to have graduated. People were laughing because my jersey was already retired. But to be in the Hall of Fame with the people there, it's a super year. I think it speaks highly of Miami as a university to honor me at the same time of graduation. I think that speaks on how important they think of academics."
What makes the induction really special for Roethlisberger is he is going in the same year as his former coach, the late Terry Hoeppner. Hoeppner, who died of brain cancer in June, 2007, spent 19 seasons at Miami, and was the head coach during Roethlisberger's time at the school. Miami had a winning season each of Hoeppner's six years as the school's head coach (1999-2004).
"That was the biggest thing for me," said Roethlisberger of being inducted with Hoeppner. "It's an honor to go into the Hall of Fame, but to go in with Coach Hoeppner kind of made me tear up a bit and gave me goose bumps. To me that means more than going in myself. It will be an emotional day."
Roethlisberger and Hoeppner had a close relationship, one that reached far beyond the football field.
"Going in with him, it doesn't get any better than that," said Roethlisberger. "It's an honor to get in. But I owe so much to him, for my career, my life, and who I am as a person. A lot of it is because of him.
"I have always said he was like a father to me. He would be one of my best friends today. I still think about him a lot. To go in with him, it doesn't get any more special than that."