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January 5, 2010
When LeFevour leads the Chippewas into Wednesday night's GMAC Bowl against Troy in Mobile, Ala., he will write the final chapter of one of college football's most improbable recent success stories.
The same guy who threw for just 945 yards as a senior in high school in the Chicago suburbs has become the first player in FBS history to pass for 12,000 yards and rush for 2,500 yards. Could anyone have expected this?
"I think your expectations kind of change for yourself every year depending on how the previous year went," LeFevour said. "All the things we've been able to do were all dreams of mine, things I wanted to accomplish."
He has accomplished just about everything he could have imagined upon his arrival on campus.
LeFevour was an unheralded recruit in part because he operated a run-oriented offense at Benet Academy in Lisle, Ill. LeFevour said he typically threw the ball about 10-15 times per game in high school. As a senior, he had nearly twice as many touchdown runs (13) as touchdown passes (seven).
His lack of eye-popping high school stats might have caused Big Ten teams to shy away from him, but it never stopped Central Michigan from pursuing him.
LeFevour chose Central Michigan over the other MAC schools pursuing him for a couple of reasons. He believed his running ability made him an ideal fit for the Chippewas' spread offense. LeFevour also had developed a solid relationship with Butch Jones, an assistant on Brian Kelly's staff at the time.
"He makes you feel really comfortable," LeFevour said. "You trust a guy like that. He just seems to really care about you as a person and not just as a football player."
LeFevour would have to wait a couple of years before he actually got a chance to play for Jones. After recruiting LeFevour to Central Michigan, Jones left to spend the 2005 and '06 seasons as an assistant at West Virginia. Jones returned to Central Michigan in 2007 as coach, replacing Kelly, and stayed there for three seasons before Cincinnati hired him away last month.
By the time Jones had returned to Central Michigan, LeFevour already had established himself as a star.
After redshirting in 2005, LeFevour began the '06 season as Central Michigan's backup. When a concussion knocked out starting quarterback Brian Brunner on the second play of the Chippewas' season opener against Boston College, LeFevour was pressed into duty. He has been Central Michigan's starting quarterback since.
LeFevour has gained 15,466 yards in total offense to rank third in NCAA history, behind Hawaii's Timmy Chang (16,910 yards) and Texas Tech's Graham Harrell (15,187). LeFevour needs 153 yards in the GMAC Bowl to tie Harrell for second place.
LeFevour also ranks sixth in the NCAA in career completions (1,138), eighth in career touchdown passes (101), 13th in career passing yards (12,510) and 13th in career rushing yards by a quarterback (2,936).
"We always talk to the players about leaving their legacy," Jones said. "Dan will definitely leave his legacy here. He's done so much on and off the field. The one word that describes him is 'champion.' "
Indeed, LeFevour also has led the Chippewas to unprecedented team success while receiving plenty of personal accolades. Before LeFevour's arrival, Central Michigan had made only two bowl appearances in school history. The Chippewas have earned bowl bids in each of LeFevour's four seasons as starting quarterback.
LeFevour said his proudest achievement at Central Michigan isn't any of his individual honors. He instead points to Central Michigan's three MAC titles in his four seasons as the starting quarterback. "That's something to be really proud of - something that's never been done by a senior class at Central Michigan," LeFevour said.
Central Michigan emerged as a MAC heavyweight because of LeFevour's remarkable year-to-year consistency.
LeFevour has rushed for at least 500 yards and six touchdowns and has thrown for at least 2,700 yards and 21 touchdowns in each of his four seasons as the starter. He put up his most impressive statistics as a sophomore, when he gained 4,774 yards in total offense and became just the second player in FBS history (joining Texas' Vince Young) to throw for 3,000 yards and run for 1,000 yards in the same season.
He owns a 35-15 overall record that includes a 29-4 mark in MAC competition. LeFevour also has led Central Michigan to seven wins in which his team trailed or was tied in the fourth quarter.
The MAC has a history of sending quarterbacks - Byron Leftwich, Chad Pennington and Ben Roethlisberger among them - to the NFL. As he prepares to add his name to that list, LeFevour once again finds himself having to prove skeptics wrong.
After operating in a shotgun offense at Central Michigan, LeFevour must prove he can be equally effective working under center. His lack of a cannon arm also could hurt his draft stock.
"The fact he's been in a shotgun so much at Central Michigan, so he has only a few reads before he takes off with the ball, that's going to be the biggest thing," said Rob Rang, a senior draft analyst for nfldraftscout.com. "They want to see if he's able to make the mental leap to more of a pro-style offense. ? We have him as a third-round pick, but I think that's a little high. I would put him maybe in the late third or possibly the fourth.''
LeFevour can't wait to perform in front of NFL scouts, and he'll get his chance at the Jan. 30 Senior Bowl, which coincidentally will be at the same stadium - Ladd-Peebles - that plays host to the GMAC Bowl. He simply wants the chance to show he can translate his MAC success to the NFL.
"It's something that will be a lot of fun," LeFevour said. "I'm looking forward to it a whole lot. It's been a dream of mine for my whole life.''
The past four years have shown that LeFevour's dreams often come true.
Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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