While the rest of the Division I college football nation spurned an undersized Tim Rattay coming out of Phoenix Christian High School and again after a one-year stint at Scottsdale Community College, Louisiana Tech signed him.
Call it good luck. Call it great recruiting. Call it karma.
Bottom line, call it a Hall of Fame decision.
At only 6-foot, 200-pounds, Rattay's abilities as a big-time college quarterback were questioned by the so-called experts.
After all, he wasn't the proto-typical looking quarterback.
"I remember the first time I met him," said Tech Athletic Director Jim Oakes. "I thought, `This is the guy who is going to replace Jason Martin?' However, once you saw him on the field, you knew he was special."
So special that almost eight years after finishing his collegiate career, Rattay will be inducted into the Louisiana Tech Athletic Hall of Fame Oct. 20.
It's an intangible honor, much like the tools that Ratty used to master his trade.
Unlike Rattay's stature, those tools couldn't be measured. It was qualities like his uncanny ability to dissect defenses, his incredible accuracy and the size of his heart that made him successful.
"I wasn't the biggest guy, and I wasn't the strongest guy," Rattay said. "That's the hand I was dealt, and I tried to take advantage of every opportunity I was given. There was nothing more fulfilling than coming from where I started and making it to the NFL. I love to compete; I love to play."
Fortunately for Louisiana Tech fans, Rattay competed and played for the Bulldogs for three seasons from 1997 through 1999. When he left, he had shattered the Tech record books and put quite a dent in the NCAA ones.
"His throws were real easy to catch," said former Tech wide receiver Sean Cangelosi. "You didn't have to make diving catches. He put it where it needed to be at the velocity it needed to be. I always got aggravated when someone would say he did not have the strongest arm. He never under threw any of us. He made it easy."
Rattay signed with Louisiana Tech in 1996 after one year at Scottsdale Community College where he earned second team All-American honors while leading the junior college ranks with 3,526 yards passing and 28 touchdowns.
Despite those impressive numbers, Tech was the only Division I school to offer Rattay. It was a mistake by the rest of the country.
"It was a situation where I didn't play quarterback until my senior year in high school," Rattay said. "Until then, I played defense. I wasn't the biggest guy either, thus I didn't get recruited. I decided to go the junior college route, and so I went to Scottsdale.
"I knew they threw the ball around a lot, and I got some good experience. I didn't want to stay in junior college for two years and Louisiana Tech was the only (Division I) school to offer me a scholarship. I decided to go to Ruston, and I'm glad I did. I had a great time at Louisiana Tech."
While Rattay was a well-kept secret to the rest of the country, former Tech coach Gary Crowton knew about him from his connections in the junior college ranks from when he coached at Snow Junior College, which was in the same league with Scottsdale.
After red-shirting his first year at Tech waiting in the wings behind Martin, Rattay exploded onto the college football scene in 1997 passing for 358 yards and three scores while leading Tech to a 30-23 win over Bowling Green.
Just a few weeks later, Rattay became only the second Bulldog signal caller to pass for more than 500 yards in a 56-28 win over Central Michigan while also tossing six touchdown passes.
However, Rattay wasn't just posting impressive numbers. He led Tech to big wins in his first year including a 41-34 victory over Cal and a 26-20 win at Alabama as the Bulldogs finished 9-2.
"Obviously, we threw it a lot which was fun and exciting," Rattay said. "I thought we had a good run while I was at Tech. We beat some good teams and competed with some good teams throughout those three years. I had fun throwing the ball around. I always felt going into games (regardless of the opponent) that we had a chance to win because we threw the ball."
And throw the ball Rattay did. After passing for 3,881 yards and 34 touchdowns in his first season, Rattay was named the Independent Player of the Year by Football News as well as the Newcomer of the Year in the state of Louisiana by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association.
It was just the start of a record-setting career.
Every time Tech fans thought they?d seen the best of Rattay, he surpassed their expectations.
"Tim was fun to coach," Crowton said. "He had the uncanny ability to see the field better than anyone I've ever been around. He had a beautiful, quick release. He was a lot of fun to coach.
"He was tough as nails; a wonderful guy. He was just an outstanding quarterback, one of the best I've ever coached in all my years."
Perhaps his career highlight came in a loss. In the 1998 season opener, Rattay combined with Troy Edwards to embarrass the defending national champion Nebraska Cornhuskers defense, passing for 590 yards and four scores in the inaugural Eddie Robinson Classic in Lincoln.
The two-time NCAA Total Offense leader ended his Bulldog career owning every school passing record. At the time of his graduation, Rattay ranked No. 2 in NCAA history in total offense (12,618), No. 2 in career passing touchdowns (115) and No. 2 in career passing yards (12,746).
Those numbers are impressive enough. However, they are incredible when put in the context of accumulating these totals in only three years.
Rattay still owns the NCAA record for career yards per game at 382.4, more than 60 yards per game more than the next closest competitor.
Following his Tech career, Rattay was selected in the seventh round of the 1999 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. Once again the critics said he wasn't big enough or strong enough for the professional ranks.
However, entering his eighth season in the NFL -- five with San Francisco, two with Tampa Bay and now one in Arizona -- , Rattay is once again proving his doubters wrong.
"(My NFL experience) has been fun," said Rattay, who is married to former Lady Techster volleyball player Allison Walker and who is a father to three-year-old daughter Riley. "It was really only a dream coming from where I came from and not getting recruited. I was never expecting to play in the NFL. After my first year or two at Tech, I thought I might have a chance."
After not playing for an NFL team the first five weeks of the season, Rattay signed with the Arizona Cardinals Oct. 9 and currently serves as the backup to Kurt Warner.
He says that although it gets tougher every year, he's still enjoying it
"It's been fun," Rattay said. "I hope to play a few more years. However, if I don't, I know that I got to play (eight) more years in the NFL than I ever thought I'd play."
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