LEXINGTON — He only spent one year with Joe Flacco at Delaware, but Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown knew then that he was a special talent.
Brown was coaching receivers at Delaware in 2005 when Flacco transferred from Pittsburgh — where he was the backup to Tyler Palko — to Delaware. However, Flacco was not awarded the one-time transfer exception, so he was not eligible to receive a scholarship and participate in Delaware's 2005 season. He threw for 2,783 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2006 and led the Blue Hens to the FCS title game. He threw for over 4,200 yards and 23 scores and set 20 school records.
Now Flacco is getting ready to start Sunday’s Super Bowl for Baltimore.
“Joe was a heavily recruited kid, but he just wasn’t happy at Pitt,” Brown said. “We had a kid before that transferred down and had success for us and won a national championship, so that probably influenced Joe. He had a big arm. That was clear from day one. He could make any throw, and that was after two years in college.
“He was very intelligent, but the thing that really stuck out to me was how he was able to blend in with every guy on the team regardless of their background. Economics, race ... it didn’t matter. He fit in. For somebody that was not eligible to play, he had a lot of pull in our locker room.”
Flacco has had the same impact on the Ravens. Flacco is the first quarterback to take a team to the playoff each of his first six seasons — nobody else had done it more than four straight years to start a career — and ESPN¿analyst Ron Jaworski says its due in part to Flacco having the strongest arm of any NFL quarterback.
“It was very clear that he had a special arm. Did I ever think he would be in the Pro Bowl and going to the Super Bowl as a starting quarterback? You just never know that for sure,” Brown said. “But you could tell he was going to be a great college quarterback and do a lot of good things at Delaware.”
Brown, who left Delaware after Flacco’s transfer year to coach at Troy, said one key to getting Flacco to Delaware was Kirk Ciarrocca, Delaware’s offensive coordinator from 2002-07. He’s now coaching at Western Michigan.
“Kirk was very well thought of in the northeast and had great success with quarterbacks,” Brown said. “Joe had a good relationship with him. He also liked the style of offense we were playing at the time. They really kind of changed what we were doing on offense to fit his skill set and Delaware depended heavily on him to throw the football.
“His arm strength is second to none, but his ability to blend in and show those leadership skills with all types of players when his role was nothing but scout team quarterback was amazing. It was just a neat story to watch him take off after I left. We had a young group of receivers — we were starting three true freshmen by the end of my season there — and to watch Joe and those guys progress to a national championship game was very rewarding.”
Brown says he has not “crossed paths” with Flacco in a long time, but he does stay in touch with Ciarrocca.
Flacco, a New Jersey native, was a three-star recruit and ranked 39th among quarterback prospects in the 2003 recruiting class. But Sunday he has a chance to win the Super Bowl.
“I will definitely be watching that game,” Brown said. “Hopefully he can perform well. It has been a rewarding year for him already. He has really played well, just like he did last year. I just hope he has one more big game left in him.”
UK Football: Brown says he knew at Delaware that Ravens QB Flacco had a special arm
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