San Diego Chargers: Here's Why You Should Root For Mike Hermann

Tom Killips

Last week, the San Diego Chargers signed undrafted free agent QB Mike Hermann. Mike Hermann the football player is impressive, but let me tell you why Mike Hermann the person is even better.

The Chargers signed a quarterback last week.

He's an undrafted rookie from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a Division III school. That's probably why you missed it or just didn't care. After all, what are the chances this guy even makes it past training camp? Not as slim as you might believe, actually.

You see, Mike Hermann has overcome so much in his life that beating the odds of making an NFL roster out of a Division III school seems relatively minor. Plus, the kid has some serious raw talent. Wayne Coffey of the New York Daily News has recently written about Mike, telling us about his athletic prowess, his troubled upbringing and how he's overcome it all. I really recommend you head over there and read the article in full, but we'll cover some highlights here.

Mike's mother died before his second birthday, and his father suffers from a condition that causes him to act erratically, unaware how his actions affect those around him. As a result, Mike's childhood wasn't an easy one.

In his first year in youth football, Mike remembers his father screaming at him, calling him a wuss in much more graphic terms than that. He remembers his father cursing at him, and getting into fights with coaches and other parents, being banned from games and leagues.

Mike grew up, and his father's condition grew worse and when Mike became a strapping teenager, it was on, punches flying, bodies sprawling, pain spilling everywhere. Once the father saw that his son was his physical equal, the abuse took a different form, Roy Hermann throwing his son's belongings around, threatening to give away Mike's dog and one time, dumping the entire contents of a garbage can on his bed.

At 16 years old, Mike decided that enough was enough. He ran away to live with his aunt and uncle.

Despite this turmoil, he became a high school football standout and received interest from Division I schools to play positions other than quarterback. The interest, however, wasn't reciprocal - Mike wanted to play quarterback. So he chose Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a tiny Division III school in Troy, N.Y, where he dominated from the very start.

In the first series of his career as a freshman, he directed a 98-yard touchdown drive. Nobody was likening him to John Elway just yet, but it was a strikingly dynamic debut.

RPI quarterbacks coach Fred Farrior says Hermann "can throw the ball effortlessly 55 yards, and has no problem throwing the ball 70 yards.

"His potential is scary," Farrior says. "He has no idea how good he can be."

So he dominated Division III competition and has a huge arm. That doesn't automatically mean he'll be successful in the NFL. I mean, JaMarcus Russell had a pretty impressive college career and can throw it a mile; we all witnessed the unmitigated disaster that was his NFL career.

"He made us look silly at times," says Marc Klatt, the Castleton State football coach. "He was definitely the best pure quarterback we saw all year." Klatt can still visualize the play where Hermann ran away from pressure, reset his feet and threw a 50-yard crossfield strike to a streaking receiver.

"He can make all the throws. He puts the ball wherever he wants," Klatt says.

Holy smokes.

It shouldn't really be a surprise, though, that Hermann has dominated like this at every level of football he's ever played; he's an athletic freak. At 6'5'', 254 pounds, he has the speed to run a 4.64 40 and the strength to bench 225 pounds 20 times. That athletic ability could give him a chance to help the Chargers right away, regardless of whether he ever realizes his tremendous potential.

Our very own Jerome Watson has already discussed how Hermann could be utilized in short yardage situations.

And now, maybe the best part.

The Oakland Raiders were the first team to reach out to Hermann's agent after the draft, inviting him to a rookie camp. He was set to go until the Chargers called and offered a contract and signing bonus.

Well done, Telesco. You might earn that Kid Dynamite nickname after all.

I'm intrigued with how Mike Hermann the football player could end up helping the Chargers, but I'm rooting for him because Mike Hermann the person is even more impressive in my eyes.

Mike Hermann has closely cropped brown hair, answers questions with "Yes, sir" and "No, sir" and has the earnest, no-nonsense bearing of a military man. "I don't need any sympathy for the way I was raised. Everybody has challenges in their childhood," he says.

"I'm ready to perform. I'm ready to prove that even though I'm from a small school I can compete on a higher level. Division (III) is only a number. If you are good enough, they will find you."

The Chargers will give him an opportunity to overcome yet another challenge and prove he's good enough.

I hope he runs away with it.

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