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2016 MAC Player Countdown #14: Austin Valdez, LB, Bowling Green

Former high school quarterback Valdez, now All-MAC linebacker at Bowling Green with the NFL in his sights.

Bowling Green Athletic Department

Braxton Miller (Houston) and Terrell Pryor (Cleveland) are former college quarterbacks currently trying to transition to the wide receiver position in the NFL.  Tim Tebow is a former Heisman Trophy winning quarterback at Florida, who is making a run at playing professional baseball.  They've got nothing on Austin Valdez.

Valdez came to Bowling Green as part of their 2013 recruiting class as a quarterback from Sylvania Southview High School.  He threw for over 2,000 yards and added another 1,000 yards on the ground his senior year at Southview, and led his team to a pair of conference championships.

But at 6'1" and roughly 200 pounds, Valdez was a curious late edition to the class, as the Falcons already had several, higher-rated quarterbacks on their roster, including Matt Johnson, who would go on to set many Bowling Green records at the position.

Valdez red-shirted his first year at Bowling Green, which gave him the chance to take stock of his prospects at the quarterback position.  He realized his best chance to see the field for the Falcons would be at another position.  He began talking with coaches about switching to the defensive side of the ball.

He made the switch to defense during spring ball the following year, and then showed up for fall camp in 2014 with 30 additional pounds on his frame and had fully embraced the inside linebacker position.

Valdez played in 13 games at linebacker in 2014, starting one game, and finished the season with 20 tackles and a tackle for a loss.  He showed enough promise to be penciled in as the starter in 2015.

To say Valdez had a breakout season last year, would be a huge understatement.  He started all 14 games at inside linebacker and led the Falcons with 144 total tackles, including 11 tackles for loss, one sack, and two interceptions.  He led a defense that helped carry Bowling Green to their second MAC Championship in the last three years.

For his efforts, Valdez was named first team All-MAC at linebacker, and was honored by the Touchdown Club of Columbus as MAC Player to Watch for 2016.  Earlier this summer, Valdez was named to the Butkus Award and Bednarick Award watch lists for the upcoming 2016 season.

Still just a red-shirt junior, Valdez is being mentioned in some circles as having NFL potential.   If he continues to put up numbers the next two seasons like he did in 2015, he could well have a chance to be playing on Sundays soon.

That would cap quite a journey for the former dual threat quarterback at Sylvania Southview!