Oct. 6, 2009
By Marc Daniels
I have been asked a few times about the best football player I have seen in my 15 years of calling UCF games. One could easily make the argument about Kevin Smith. He was a consensus All-American selection and posted one of the greatest seasons ever for a college football running back. But as much as I loved watching Kevin play, Daunte Culpepper gets my vote. He was amazing for many reasons. Among them was his ability to make those around him better. Or at least look better.
But as great as Daunte was at UCF, who would you say was the better quarterback, Daunte Culpepper or Ryan Schneider?
Hold on. Stop screaming. Just relax for a second. I said quarterback, not athlete.
Culpepper looked like a star just standing in front of you. Schneider looked like your fishing captain for a lazy Sunday afternoon on the river. Culpepper had a cannon for an arm. Schneider's arm was more suited for touch football in your backyard on holidays with relatives. Culpepper could run like a deer in the open. Schneider could barely walk from the huddle to the line.
Despite the obvious differences physically between the two, a closer look statistically might tell you Schneider has a case.
Yes, Schneider's career ended early for his problems off the field. But when he was on the field, he was good, very good.
In 2002, he passed for 3,770 yards and 31 touchdowns with seven 300-yard games, all UCF single-season records.
For their careers, Culpepper and Schneider rank 1-2 in attempts, completions, yards, completion percentage and touchdowns and both had 15 300-yard games.
Culpepper could run and run and run and some of his greatest highlights came on running plays, even running over linebackers trying to make a tackle. He had strength. Schneider had toughness you can't teach.
Back in that 2002 season, Schneider was knocked down all night by a rising college star in a game at Arizona State. Terrell Suggs, now an NFL all-pro with the Baltimore Ravens, hit Ryan early and often. So often that Schneider left the game with bruised ribs. Despite a bye week, Schneider had no business playing in the next game. It was a Friday night battle at Marshall on national television. After getting beaten up at Penn State and Arizona State, Schneider went out and played. Despite losing 26-21, he battled all night and almost pulled off the victory.
Yet Schneider's most famous game and drive comes from his freshman season. It was in Tuscaloosa, when the rookie signal caller no college thought could play in a big-time environment, marched the Knights down the field to the famed game winning field goal as UCF beat Alabama. He was Tom Brady like in showing poise and to this day every teammate in that huddle can recall how calm and confident he was, knowing they would get in position to kick a game winner.
Daunte, of course, went on to NFL fame and became an all-pro. Schneider's end to his UCF career left him without the ceremonial goodbye and attempts at other pro leagues never panned out. But when it came to toughness and football field smarts, Ryan Schneider was as good as UCF has seen at the position.
Marc Daniels' From the Pressbox runs several times per month on UCFAthletics.com. Listen to Marc during UCF football, men's basketball and baseball radio broadcasts on the UCF-ISP Sports Network. Each weekday, Marc hosts "The Beat of Sports" on ESPN 1080 in Orlando from 9-11 a.m.