Rewind to the third day of the 2013 NFL Draft… Commissioner Roger Goddell approaches the podium, takes a breath, and announces, “With the 115th pick of the NFL Draft, The Pittsburgh Steelers pick Landry Jones, Quarterback, University of Oklahoma!”
(OK, so maybe the Commish was at home chillin’ during the fourth round of the draft… You get the idea…)
With the utterance of those 18 words, one person’s life most assuredly changed – Landry Jones’ life. But is Jones’ life the only one that changed?
Fast-forward to the end of the 2013 NFL Draft… As the draft dwindles down to its waning moments, draft analysts recap the high points of the occasion. One of the analysts reflect on Pittsburg’s drafting of Jones. “This pick (Landry Jones) may force Charlie Batch into retirement (paraphrase)!” According to these words, Charlie Batch’s life is also about to change – FOREVER!
To borrow a famous catch-phrase from ESPN college football analyst Lee Corso, “Not so fast, my friends!”
Now, if you haven’t already done so, fast-forward to the present.
For those of you who are gullible enough to rely on every biased, opinionated syllable spewed from the mouths of those so-called ‘talking heads,’ hear this – Charlie Batch ain’t goin’ NOWHERE!!
Batch, the established veteran reserve quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, has no immediate plans to retire. “The ‘R’ word (retirement) is what most players DO NOT like to say, because it marks the official end of the playing days,” he said in semi-jest. “Honestly, I don’t know when I’ll retire. We’ll just have to see what happens during the off-season. But I do want to eventually finish my career as a Pittsburgh Steeler.”
Batch began his NFL career by being drafted in the second-round of the 1998 Draft (#60) by the Detroit Lions. He was forced into action as a rookie, replacing an ineffective Scott Mitchell.
In spite of his inexperience as a rookie, Batch quickly established himself as a leader and a winner, gaining the respect of his veteran teammates. “As a rookie, I was in awe of my teammates such as (Hall of Fame RB) Barry Sanders, and (All-Pro WR) Herman Moore,” he revealed. “But I also had to work hard, and prove to those veterans that I can play (quarterback at the NFL level), and demonstrate why I was drafted in this spot.”
Injuries curtailed his career in Detroit. He was released in 2002, but was signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers, his hometown team. “Things didn’t work out in Detroit, but signing with the Steelers was a dream come true,” he recalled. “When I put that Steelers uniform on for the first time, I had to pinch myself! I looked myself in that uniform a couple of extra times to see was I fantasizing, or if it was actually real!”
Over the course of the next eleven seasons, Batch played sparingly, but performed solidly when called upon. His most recent playing stint was last year, when starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and back-up Byron Leftwich were both injured.
Making his first start since week 15 (December 24th ) of the 2011 season, Batch tossed three interceptions in a rally attempt against the Cleveland Browns en route to a 20-14 loss.
Known to accept responsibility during failure, and deflect glory to the team when triumphant, Batch placed the loss squarely on his shoulders.
The following week, against eventual Super Bowl XLVII champion and bitter divisional rival Baltimore Ravens, Batch atoned for the miscues from the previous week.
Batch, who played like the poised veteran that he is, passed for 278 yards and a touchdown in the winning effort, defeating the Ravens 23-20.
The victory silenced critics and removed all doubt about Batch’s ability to play professional football at a high level.
NFL Network’s Charles Davis agreed with this assessment.
“Charlie Batch is EXACTLY what you want in a back-up quarterback in the NFL,” Davis began with his analysis. “(He’s) smart, efficient, and able to produce at a high level with minimal repetitions in practice. In addition, and maybe the most important thing…he's supportive, and willing to share his experience and knowledge with the starting quarterback. He benefits the team through his unselfishness, tremendous football mind, and life's wisdom.”
Aside from his reserve duties for the Steelers, Batch has established himself as a pillar of the Pittsburgh community… A true ‘Hometown Hero.’ He is passionate about helping the underprivileged and indigent in the community. However, his true passion is helping young people.
“People often ask why I do what I do in the community (involvement with youth),” Batch began explaining. “My sister Danielle was killed in 1996, at age 17, while caught in the crossfire between two rival gangs. She never had the opportunity to live life. I said to myself that if I were ever in a position to give back to the community, I would!”
Batch’s non-profit organization is helping keep young people off the streets, and out of trouble. “The name of my foundation is the Best of the Batch,” he continued. “We help uplift community kids through sports and education. We use sports to attract the kids, and then we implement the academic programs.”
According to Batch, the program had a simple, common sense strategy. “We just wanted to make the kids so tired, that all they wanted to do was go home,” he admitted with a chuckle.
Since 1999, Best of the Batch has helped thousands of youth in the metropolitan Pittsburgh area, and has raised well over $1 million to support its cause.
Batch has total involvement in the foundation. Besides being the organization’s founder and CEO, he is also a certified basketball official, and helps out by refereeing youth basketball games.
Batch’s entrepreneurial endeavors include the Batch Development Company, a real estate development firm that develops properties and helps underprivileged families with home ownership.
Among the many off-field accolades Batch has earned, he was awarded the prestigious Byron ‘Whizzer’ White Award for his humanitarian efforts this year. This honor is annually bestowed upon the NFL player who uses his success for the benefit of society. This is the NFL Players’ Association (NFLPA) top award. Finalists for this year’s award were Jason Witten (DAL), Charles Tillman (CHI), Chad Greenway (MIN), and Benjamin Watson (CLE).
Although Batch has clearly demonstrated the ability to play at a high level, he is presently an unsigned free agent, and his football future in Pittsburgh has yet to be determined.
“The Steelers have some younger guys (quarterbacks) coming in, and they’ll want to take a long look at those guys to see if they can be developed,” he said. “If they (the Steelers) want to bring me in to be a part of that process, I welcome the opportunity. If not, then I would weigh all of my options. However, if this is the end for me, then it’s been one heck of a ride!”
Visit www.charliebatch.com and www.batchfoundation.org for more information.