To me, Charlie Batch represents everything the Pittsburgh Steelers stand for. He is not only a consummate team player for the club, but he exemplifies the Steelers ethos of community service. Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Charlie chose Eastern Michigan University for his college career. The son of a schoolteacher, he didn't take the easy way out academically, and received his bachelor's degree in criminal justice.
Then, as now, Batch wore #16, and set records for the Eastern Michigan University program, accumulating 7,715 total offensive yards. He set single-season records of offensive yards - 3,229 in 1995 and 3,390 in 1997, as well as records for 7,592 career passing yards and 53 career touchdown passes. Batch was also named first team All-Mid-American Conference in 1995 and was EMU’s Most Valuable Player in 1997.
He was drafted by the Detroit Lions in 1998, #60 overall, and was the starting QB for the Lions for 4 years, although injuries plagued his career. His best year was 1999, when he led the Lions to a Wild Card berth in the playoffs. Unfortunately they lost the game, as Charlie was injured and unable to play. One might say that injuries have been the Achilles heel of his career, not only with the Lions but since signing with the Steelers in 2002. (He was cut by Detroit in a massive reorganization of the franchise.) Despite this propensity, Batch has played in 71 games during his NFL career, completing 819 passes for 10,050 yards and 57 touchdowns.
Although he hasn't had a particularly flashy career in the NFL, he is a player that coaches know that they can rely on when the chips are down. Through years of seeing himself passed over for other players, he's never been less than professional, waiting in the wings to help out the team at a moment's notice. When interviewed recently, he sounded a bit bemused by the fact that the coaching staff so easily overlooked him in this year's quarterback derby. "I always wanted to put my hat in the ring," Batch said. "For me, I didn't get that opportunity early ... But things happened and here I am with that opportunity, and I had to make the most of it." Apparently Batch did much of his pre-season preparation on his own time, working after and between practices with the receivers.
Charlie is very well respected among his colleagues. He is on the Executive Committee of the NFLPA, and he received the Steelers 2006 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. In February of 2010 he was inducted into Eastern Michigan University's Athletic Hall of Fame.
But Batch realized very early in his career that life is about more than football, and he established the Charlie Batch Foundation while still with the Detroit Lions, with the express goal of assisting inner-city kids. When he moved back home to Pittsburgh, he moved most of the activities of the foundation here as well, and the many programs have helped countless Pittsburgh kids and youth. Some of those programs are the Toys for Tots Literacy Program, the NCJW BatchPacks for Kids (which takes 350 kids shopping for school supplies,) the Architecture Building Communities program, which is operated in conjunction with the Carnegie Mellon School of Architecture, the Best of the Batch Club, which rewards students for academic achievement, citizenship, and so on with field trips with Charlie, and a number of other tutoring, literacy, and scholarship programs. Many celebrities merely lend their name to charitable foundations or functions, but Batch both provides funding and day-to-day involvement in his many charitable efforts. Earlier this month Charlie was presented with the first Jerome Bettis Award for Humanity and Community Service. This annual award is presented to a Pittsburgh individual who demonstrates the image of the award title. Batch was chosen because of his commitment to his hometown of Homestead.
It does my heart good to see a man of his integrity and work ethic be rewarded with an opportunity to lead his teammates on the field. Here's hoping that he continues to make the most of it. Go, Charlie, and go, Steelers!