Peyton Ramsey: Path to the NFL DRaft
The quarterback position is undeniably the most important position in the whole of sport. Ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft, more teams than ever need to find that face of the franchise, that leader of their offense. In a quarterback class that could prove to be historic, Northwestern quarterback Peyton Ramsey knows that he has the skillset and mindset to lead an NFL team to success.
“I’ll make your team better, both on and off the field. I’m a leader, I’m a winner, I’m a competitor and I’m good in the locker room and around the community.”
The Makings Of An NFL Quarterback
Not only is the quarterback position one of the most important in all of sports, it’s one that’s going through a constant development. In recent times, players like Michael Vick, Russell Wilson, and Lamar Jackson, have helped shape and redefine what teams are looking for in an NFL quarterback. However, the NFL is still a predominantly passing league and therefore requires a lot from the signal-callers.
As he heads to the 2021 NFL Draft, Peyton Ramsey is aware of exactly what the NFL is looking for in a quarterback. Furthermore, he knows that he has the game-tape out there that proves he can match up to that criteria as well as anyone else in this quarterback class.
“There’s a lot! I’ll start with the intangible things. If you can’t lead or understand a play book that’s one thing. They’re looking for smart, high IQ guys that are willing to stick their necks out there and be a competitive guy. That’s number one. Number two, they’re looking for talented guys who can go out there and make every throw. If you can’t go out there and throw a go-route, or a deep-post, or a corner, there’s no place for you in the NFL. Number three, the ability to make plays outside of the pocket. When stuff doesn’t go right – those defensive guys are gonna get you, they’re going to give you bad looks – you’re going to have to make plays and improvise and that’s where our game is at. Now more than ever, NFL teams are looking for guys who can make plays with their legs.”
“You can go to the Auburn game, or Penn State in 2019 when I was still at Indiana, that’s my career high in passing yards, but I also ran around a bit. That’s what it comes down to. My decision making was at a real high level, made every throw, made every play that I could on that day.”
A Football Family
The Auburn game was the final one of a college football career that has taken him through Indiana and Northwestern and seen him face some of the best players that the nation has to offer.
It’s the latest step on a football journey that began for Peyton Ramsey in Cincinnati, Ohio. One of three sons of Cherie and Doug Ramsey, all the boys were named after NFL quarterbacks. Montana — named obviously after Joe Montana, Drew — after Drew Bledsoe, and Peyton was named after former Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.
It’s fair to say that family played a major part in developing a love for the game of football.
“There’s no question. Just a football family all around. My Dad’s a coach, my mum’s been into it ever since she met my Dad. My brothers played the game as well. It runs in the family, and they’ve been my biggest fans. They’ve been there for me through and through. A big credit to who I am as a player and a person is to my family.”
Doug was the coach at Elder High School where Peyton Ramsey would eventually showcase his football talents. Growing up around with his father as the head coach only helped fuel his love for the game even before stepping out on to the field on a Friday night.
“I grew up around the game and when you’re a little kid and you’re hanging around with the high school guys that get to go out there on a Friday night and everyone is cheering for them, it felt right. More than anything that’s why, I grew up around the game, felt comfortable playing, and enjoyed it ever since.”
In addition to his father’s influence on his love for the game and development, Peyton Ramsey points to two players who had a significant influence on his game as he grew and developed as a quarterback.
“Russell Wilson, that’s my guy. A guy that I’ve always looked towards, even when he was a rookie in the league. He was in the Super Bowl his rookie year. I was a young kid at that time and just the way he makes plays outside of the pocket and improvises and can make every single play on the field. I think that’s what made me watch Russ so much, so closely. I’m not comparing my game to Tom Brady because we’re different types of quarterbacks, but his leadership style, his competitive nature is something that I always carry with me. Those are two guys that I’ve watched super closely and try to take bits of their game.”
He took all of those influences and turned them into an incredible high school career. As the quarterback for his father’s Elder High School team, Peyton Ramsey was twice the Greater Catholic League South Player of the Year and thrice led Elder to playoff appearances. He holds multiple school records while throwing for 6,708 yards and 49 touchdowns with an additional 32 rushing touchdowns. The early success helped further develop his passion for the game.
“Winning always makes things easier, there’s no doubt about it. That’s what makes you work even harder. When you start to see success and taste success a little bit, you’re more curious and willing to work hard and step outside of your comfort zone. I give a lot of credit for the success of my career to my high school days and having success there.”
High School Success & The Recruiting Process
Success was not only the by-product of hard work but a motivator to work harder. The other motivator for Peyton Ramsey was having his Dad as a head coach. Far from being favoured, his performances came under closer scrutiny both on the field and at home.
“It was unique, different from anything else I’ve ever done. It took us a little bit of time to separate the coach-player relationship from the father-son relationship because as my Dad he expected a lot out of me. He knew what I was capable of doing. Therefore, every mistake, every misstep, was put under a microscope because he knew I was better, and he demanded a lot from me. Once we had a little trial and error with that relationship it became one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had. Some of the best memories, most fun times playing football, came from playing for my Dad. Just an unbelievable time.”
Having had a successful career as the quarterback for Elder, Peyton Ramsey was a three-star recruit and ranked as the 44th overall prospect in the state of Ohio as he prepared to embark on his college football journey. Despite his performances in high school, he wasn’t heavily recruited but two programs in particular gave him the opportunity to tick one of his recruiting boxes.
“I wasn’t as highly rated a recruit as some guys were. I had the entire MAC, a couple Big Ten’s and then Cincinnati and a couple of ACC teams. It was a unique experience as you’re not used to college level coaches sending you text messages or reaching out to you on social media. It’s kind of a different experience. Overwhelming is a good word to use. But, I committed to Indiana pretty early which was a good thing for me. I always wanted to play in the Big Ten, and Indiana and Illinois were my only Big Ten Offers. Indiana, at the time, their offense was up-and-coming. Coach Kevin Wilson and Kevin Johns were the head coach and offensive co-ordinator that had really turned Indiana around.”
Peyton Ramsey arrived in Indiana in 2016 but wouldn’t see the field as a true freshman. He redshirted his first year but still found a meaningful way to contribute as the Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year. Looking back on the experience he appreciates the importance of the role he assumed in that first year as a Hoosier.
“Now, more than ever, as a fifth year senior, I realise how important those scout team guys are. You’re literally giving the look for the team you’re going to be playing. During the week of practice you have to be on you’re A-game every single day. I realised it kind of back that, but I didn’t realise how appreciated it was by everybody throughout the program. I’m glad that I put my head down and went to work on the scout team because you’re allowing the team to win and you’re making yourself better. It’s a valuable role.”
Having put in the work on the scout team, Peyton Ramsey made is Indiana debut in 2017. Although the Cincinnati native isn’t an Ohio State fan, making his debut against the Buckeyes still left a lasting impression.
“It was emotional. You’re rolling out there in your first game and you’ve got an Ohio State defensive line coming after you, guys that are going to be first round picks in the secondary. Usually you get a dry run against someone who isn’t Ohio State calibre before you run out there. But I’m glad it was. It took the nerves away and I was just able to play after that. It was an awesome experience.”
As a two-year starter for the Hoosiers, Peyton Ramsey led Indiana to 12 wins while throwing for over 5,000 yards and contributing 44 total touchdowns between 2018 and 2019. Prior to the 2019 season, Indiana hadn’t had a winning season since 2007 and before than the Hoosiers hadn’t put together a winning record since 1994. That success is a big part of how Ramsey reflects on his time with the program.
“My class that came in was really able to turn that program around. Indiana was annually not a very good football team, that’s what it was. We came in there and were able to turn it around as a group, as a team. That’s a special thing for a group of guys to do.”
Having graduated in 2019, Peyton Ramsey found himself at a career crossroad. With his four years at college complete, he was eligible for the 2020 NFL Draft. However, it wasn’t an option that the young quarterback ever contemplated.
“I thought that I needed another year to get better if I was going to give myself the best opportunity to play at the next level.”
Rather than head to the draft, or even stay to complete another year at Indiana, Peyton Ramsey transferred to Northwestern. It ticked another box that he was unable to check off as he came out of Elder High School.
“I tell people all the time, coming out of high school I wanted to go to Northwestern. They didn’t offer me a scholarship, so it wasn’t in the cards all the way back in 2016. I’ve always had such great respect for Coach Fitz and what he’s done there. The culture he’s built, the guys he brings in, it just felt like the fit. I took one visit, was there 24 hours, and decided that was where I was going to go before I even left. It’s a special place and one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”
In the 2019 season, Northwestern had gone 3-9 while averaging just 16.3 points per game. With Peyton Ramsey under center in 2020, they reached the Big Ten Championship Game having gone 7-2 and averaging 25 points per game. People around the program credit the offensive turnaround to Ramsey’s influence but the humble quarterback sees it entirely differently.
“I think it’s a couple of things. You bring in a new offensive coordinator who is really experienced, an awesome coach, a great teacher of the game. Before I even got there he had turned around an offense that didn’t believe in themselves anymore. They’re buying in and believing in each other and I just filled that final piece of what they needed, an experienced guy who could go out and make some plays. Guys might say I was the difference, but I would argue that there was a lot of things that went into Northwestern being a really good football team this year.”
From the first game of an incredibly disrupted season against Maryland, to a bowl win against Auburn, it was a year of incredible memories for Peyton Ramsey and the Northwestern Wildcats. However, for a kid who dreamed of playing in the Big Ten, one stands out amongst them all.
“Mid-December and we’re walking into Lucas Oil Stadium to play in the Big Ten Championship, that was surreal. That was something that I dreamed about for a long time. Finally, to get there with my teammates was as cool of an experience as I’ve ever had.”
Following the 2020 college football season, Peyton Ramsey found himself at yet another career crossroad. Due to the disruption of the season, the NCAA have given players an extra year of eligibility. He could have returned to Northwestern for another go around, but the decision to enter the 2021 NFL Draft had been made long before the final play in the Citrus Bowl against Auburn.
“I never really considered coming back to be honest with you. Going into the season, all of us seniors were under the impression that this was our last year. I played a lot of football. It wasn’t like I was a guy who just had the opportunity to play as a senior. Had a lot of highs, definitely had some lows, but a lot of positives and I’ve grown as a player. I just felt like I’d done everything I could and was ready for what was next.”
With the cancellation of the NFL Combine, Peyton Ramsey’s biggest opportunity to shine in the pre-draft process was at the Northwestern Pro Day. Conscious that his deep ball accuracy – something he admittedly feels he needs to work on – has been raised as a concern with regards to his NFL skillset, he was determined to put on a show in front of NFL decision makers.
“I think I threw it around the yard as well as I possibly could have. I came out of there so excited with my performance. The biggest thing was connecting on my deep throws. My deep ball accuracy is something that’s been called into question. It’s been a point of emphasis for me this off-season to make sure I’m accurate on those deep shots and threw it really well at Pro Day. Super confident about where I am headed into the draft.”
The Next Step
It’s mid-March as we’re talking and Peyton Ramsey has already spoke with multiple teams. The Arizona Cardinals sent their quarterback coach up to his Pro Day. With further calls with teams booked in, there’s interest from the NFL in the former Northwestern quarterback. The quarterback landscape evolves with every trade and free agency signing but Ramsey knows he can’t let that impact his mindset during the process.
“You’ve got to let it all shake out and try not to plan this, because it’s so unpredictable. Growing up, you’re willing to go and play anywhere as long as you get to play the game. I think it’s hard to manage and predict and if you do get caught up in that you’re going to stress yourself out and overwhelm yourself a little bit. I’ve just tried to be open to everything and let the chips fall where they might, and just go play the game that I love playing.”
With the 2021 NFL Draft less than three weeks away, it won’t be long until Peyton Ramsey finds out where that might be.
“It would mean the world. It’s something that I’ve worked for and hoped to get my entire life. It would mean everything to me just to hear my name called and go and make the most of the opportunity.”
OLIVER HODGKINSON IS A COLLEGE FOOTBALL WRITER FOR THE TOUCHDOWN. HE ALSO WRITES ON THE NFL FOR THE PRO FOOTBALL NETWORK. YOU CAN HEAR HIS OPINIONS ON ALL THINGS COLLEGE FOOTBALL AS ONE THIRD OF THE COLLEGE CHAPS PODCAST.
Huge thanks to Peyton Ramsey for taking the time to speak to us.