The 2012 NFL regular season drew to a close on Sunday, and once again, IMG Academy’s Combine/Draft Training Program alumni made headlines throughout the league. Over the years, IMG Academy has earned a reputation as “The place where QBs are made,” thanks in part to the elite facilities and coaching that players receive before the NFL Combine and college pro days before vying for a spot in the NFL Draft.
Our quarterback trainees lit up the league once again in 2012. Among the rookies, Seattle Seahawks QB and third-round pick (75th overall) Russell Wilson made headlines in the preseason when he beat out veteran Matt Flynn for the starting position. Not only did Wilson hang on to the starting job, but led the Seahawks to an 11-5 overall record and a berth in the playoffs as the fifth-seed. Wilson also tied Peyton Manning’s rookie record for touchdown passes in a season with 26. Wilson finished the year 252-of-393 passing (64.1%); 3,118 yards passing; and 26 touchdowns to only 10 interceptions. The class of 2012 also featured QBs Ryan Tannehill (9th overall, Miami Dolphins) and Kirk Cousins (102nd overall, Washington Redskins). Tannehill started all 16 games, completing 58.3% of his passes for 3,294 yards and 12 touchdowns. Meanwhile, Cousins proved his value in limited time behind Robert Griffin, III, but appeared in three games with one start, completing 33-of-48 passes (66.8%) for four TDs and a 101.8 QB rating.
The impact of IMG Academy’s QB training was not limited to the rookie class. Drew Brees (class of 2001) threw for more than 5,000 yards in a season for the third time in his career, becoming the first QB in NFL history to accomplish the feat, finishing the year with 5,177 yards and 43 TDs – both league bests. Christian Ponder (class of 2011, pictured left with Chris Weinke) helped lead the Minnesota Vikings back into the playoffs for the first time since the 2009 season behind an efficient effort, completing 300-of-483 of his passes (62.1%) and 18 TDs. Dallas Cowboys’ QB Tony Romo (class of 2003) finished third in the league in passing with 4,903 passing yards, 28 TDs and 65.6% completion percentage. New York Giants QB Eli Manning threw for 26 TDs to bring his career total to 211 TDs, becoming the Giants’ all-time leader in passing TDs. Manning only needs 1,936 yards to overtake Phil Simms as the franchise’s passing yardage leader next season. 2011 phenom Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers continued putting up impressive numbers, recording 3,869 yards
passing, 19 TDs and 741 rushing yards, which included a 72 yard scamper for a TD against the Falcons in December, the fifth-longest TD run by a QB in the Super Bowl era. San Francisco 49ers QB Alex Smith (class of 2005) ended the season leading the lead in completion percentage with a stunning 70.2 completion percentage on 153-of-218 passing in nine starts.
However, the impact of IMG Academy Combine/Draft Training Program extends beyond the QB position. The biggest stories of the 2012 season came from Washington Redskins RB Alfred Morris and Carolina Panthers LB Luke Kuechly, each members of the class of 2012. Morris entered the NFL as a sixth-round selection (173rd overall), and it was a magical season for the late-round gem, going from backup – to starter – to the franchise’s all-time single season rushing record holder. Morris made a splash in his first start, gaining just under 100 yards on the ground and never looked back. In the regular season finale, with the playoffs on the line against the Dallas Cowboys, Morris rushed 33 times for 200 yards and three touchdowns. He finished the year with 1,613 yards on 335 carries (4.8 avg.), breaking Clinton Portis’ single-season franchise rushing record of 1,516 yards set in 2005, in addition to tallying 13 TDs on the ground. Morris finished second in the league in total rushing, behind only Adrian Peterson.
Panthers rookie LB sensation Luke Kuechly (pictured right along with Cincinnati Bengals WR Mohamed Sanu), selected ninth-overall, proved that IMG Academy trains elite players on both sides of the ball, and more than lived up to the expectations of his draft status. Kuechly led the entire league in tackles with 164 combined stops (103 solo, 61 asst.) – 15 more than the league’s second leading tackler NaVarro Bowman (San Francisco). On top of always being around the ball, Kuechly added eight passes defensed and two interceptions throughout the year.
Other 2012 highlights from the IMG Academy Combine/Draft Training Program alumni:
Pittsburgh Steeler TE Heath Miller (class of 2005) had a career year with personal bests of 871 yards receiving and 8 TDs. He moved up to become the all-time receiving leader among tight ends in Steelers’ franchise history, and led the team in receiving in 2012, the first TE to do so since 1993 (Eric Green).
Green Bay Packers WR Randall Cobb (class of 2010) led the franchise in receiving with 80
receptions and 954 receiving yards, and second on the team with 8 receiving TDs.
Buffalo Bills rookie LT Cordy Glenn (Class of 2012) started 13 games, missing three to injury, and helped the Bills to finish the year as the league’s sixth best rushing attack (138.6 ypg).
Detroit Lions DE Cliff Avril (class of 2008) record a team-leading 9.5 sacks along with 35 tackles and two forced fumbles.
San Diego Chargers DE Kendall Reyes (class of 2012) appeared in all 16 games, recording 28 tackles and 5.5 sacks.
Indianapolis Colts OL Anthony Castonzo (class of 2011) started all 16 games and helping the Colts achieve the biggest turnaround in the league, going from 2-14 in 2011, to 11-5 and a fifth-seed in the playoffs in 2012, and giving up the 10th fewest sacks as a team.
Baltimore Ravens WR Anquan Boldin (class of 2003) led the team with 65 receptions and 921 receiving yards in his 10th NFL season, and contributed four TDs.
Atlanta Falcons G Peter Konz (class of 2012) appeared in all 16 games with 10 starts, helping solidify the Falcons’ NFC best 13-3 overall record.
Philadelphia Eagles RB Bryce Brown (class of 2012) appeared in all 16 games with four starts, averaging 4.9 yards per carry in 115 attempts (564 yards), and notched four touchdowns.
Kansas City Chiefs G Jeff Allen (class of 2012) appeared in all 16 games, and took over as a starter in week 3, recording 13 starts.
Buffalo Bills CB Ron Brooks (class of 2012) recorded the fifth-fastest 40-yard dash time at the 2012 Draft, and emerged as a starting corner in the final month of the season.
The IMG Academy Combine/Draft Training Program is getting back underway in January as the college bowl season ends. If history is any indication, there is no doubt we should expect another wave of NFL headliners to join the fold in 2013.