With Andy Dalton in the concussion protocol and in serious question to start on Sunday night against the Eagles, the seventh-round rookie from James Madison, Ben DiNucci, will be in line to start.
The 23-year old got some action in the loss to Washington after Dalton went down with a concussion. Although he wasn’t able to secure the first passing touchdown of his career, he did look promising.
So who exactly is DiNucci and what was his path to the pros?
[Related: Dallas Cowboys: Takeaways from Week 7]
High School Football
DiNucci attended high school at Pine-Richland in the small town of Gibsonia in Pennsylvania.
He was an extremely talented athlete who understood the game of football. As a result, he became the starer of Pine-Richland as a sophomore.
As a starter in his sophomore year, he struggled immensely. He only threw for 1,219 passing yards and 11 touchdowns. His junior year was a much improved season as he threw for over 2,000 yards and 15 touchdowns. Although his improved season was promising, DiNucci wasn’t a top recruit prospect just yet.
However, that was until his senior year. He arguably had the best high school quarterback season of all-time in the state of Pennsylvania. DiNucci completed 69.3 percent of his passes for 4,269 yards, 46 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also ran for 255 yards and six touchdowns.
In that season, he led his team to a 15-1 record and made history by being the only high school quarterback in the state of Pennsylvania to throw for over 4,000 yards in a season. Subsequently, DiNucci won Pennsylvanian player of the year in 2014.
DiNucci would then be named a three-star recruit.
DiNucci didn’t get any offers until his senior year where he received five football scholarships. His offers were from Pittsburgh, Akron, Albany, Central Connecticut State and Fordham.
However, he originally enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania trying to walk-on to their football program.
Even though DiNucci was set on attending the University of Pennsylvania, he would later de-commit to accept a football scholarship from the University of Pittsburgh.
College Career at Pittsburgh
DiNucci would redshirt his first year at Pittsburgh learning behind Nathan Peterman.
He wouldn’t get the first start of his college career until his “sophomore year” (technically his third year in college) at Pittsburgh.
In his first 10 games at Pittsburgh, DiNucci was completing an abysmal 55.7 percent of his passes for only 1,091 yards and five touchdowns. He also threw five interceptions. In that season, Pittsburgh went 3-7 in games in which DiNucci played. He would eventually lose the starting job to a true freshman.
At the end of the season, DiNucci announced his decision to transfer to James Madison University.
College Career at James Madison
As a junior at James Madison, he became the immediate starter on a competitive squad. DiNucci led the Dukes to a 9-4 record while throwing for 2,275 yards and completing 211 passes. He would also pass for 16 touchdowns and run for nine.
Fast forward to DiNucci’s last season as a college football quarterback and he did not disappoint. He led James Madison (14-2) to the FCS championship throwing for 3,441 yards. He also recorded 29 passing touchdowns and seven rushing touchdowns.
Although he lost the FCS Championship game to North Dakota State, his competitive fight was showcased in the biggest game of his life.
He threw for 204 passing yards and two touchdowns. The downfall of his performance in the FCS championship game was his inability to run. He ran eight times for nine yards in the game.
DiNucci could not have asked for a better two seasons at James Madison. In two seasons with the Dukes, DiNucci finished with the third-most completions (479), fourth-most passing touchdowns (45), fourth-most passing yards (5,716) and seventh-most total offense (6,718) in James Madison history.
DiNucci would look to enter into the NFL draft after the season. He was projected the 18th best quarterback going in the 2020 draft.
The Dallas Cowboys selected the young phenom, DiNucci, out of James Madison in the seventh round. He was selected 231st overall looking to be the star of America’s Team one day.
After Dalton left the game due to injury in week 7, DiNucci got the opportunity to see his first true playing time. He completed his first pass on a 32-yard completion to Amari Cooper.
DiNucci would finish the game going 2/3 for 39 yards.
The young rookie will be in line to start his first NFL career game if Dalton can’t clear concussion protocol by Sunday.
Image Courtesy of the New York Post