Andy Dalton won more football games than any Horned Frog in history. But even his biggest admirers didn't predict him leading the Cincinnati Bengals to a winning record and the playoffs as a rookie quarterback in 2011. After all, the Bengals had made the postseason just twice since 1990.
But Dalton picked up where he left off at TCU and became just the fifth rookie in NFL history to pass for 3,000 or more yards (Cam Newton also did it for Carolina in 2011). Dalton threw for a Bengals rookie record 20 touchdowns and 3,398 yards. He became the only rookie quarterback not selected in the first round (he was drafted 35th overall in the 2nd round) to start 16 games and also lead his team to the playoffs.
It was a whirlwind year. He experienced a Rose Bowl win, the NFL Draft, a July wedding, his first year in the NFL, his first playoff game in his hometown of Houston and a Pro Bowl appearance.
He's finally been able to catch his breath in the off-season as he and his wife, Jordan, bought a house in Fort Worth. He spent a lot of time at TCU working out and watching spring practice. But he's back in Cincinnati and recently announced the start of the Andy and Jordan Dalton Foundation, which aims to help seriously ill and physically challenged children and their families in the Cincinnati area. He recently opened a Twitter account (@AndyDalton14) to help spread the word about the foundation. To learn more, go online to AndyDalton.org.
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He's also helping to promote DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket, a service Dalton said he's used for a couple years.
Are you at all surprised by the success of the team or your personal success? I wouldn't say I surprised myself. I came into a great situation where I had a chance to start right away. And that's kind of how it was for me at TCU. Once you meet the guys, get used to them, they get used to me, learn the playbook and the terminology and things like that, it comes naturally. Once you get all the little things taken care of it's just playing football again. We have a bunch of talent here. It's nice having A.J. [Green, the Bengals receiver, who led all rookies in receptions (65) and yards (1,057)] and guys like that. It made my job easier.
What is the biggest difference between NFL and college football? You notice right away the speed of the game. It is faster, especially up front. You don't have as much time in the pocket. You have to be on your game and prepared so you know what to do when you're getting all these crazy looks with two down linemen, one down lineman. Things like that can be tough.
What do you think about college football likely moving to a four-team playoff? Don't you wish you had that in 2010? I don't know how the whole thing is going to work, but I think it will be good for schools like us. We went undefeated and didn't have a chance to see if we could be national champions. I think it can be good if they work out all the kinks.
What were your thoughts when you heard Justin Fuente was getting the head coaching job at Memphis? I'm happy for him. It's something he definitely deserves. He was a great coach for me. He helped me get to where I am today. When I first heard it, I was happy. It's been cool because Memphis is about halfway on the drive home from Cincinnati back to Fort Worth. So we've stopped there and talked to him and his wife several times. It's been cool just to see his transition.
How did TCU and coach Fuente get you prepared for the NFL? I think offensively, what we did [at TCU] is very similar to what I'm doing now. The amount of things I can do at that line of scrimmage is very similar to what I was doing at TCU. All the verbiage and terminology is all different, but it's still similar stuff. The style of offense was considered a spread offense, but I'm still running all the same pass concepts in Cincinnati that we ran at TCU. I think that's what helped me out the most.
How well did you keep up with TCU's season last fall? I tried to follow them as much as I could. I didn't get to watch too many games, but I watched them as much as I could. I would always try to find the score, look at the stats.
What's the biggest difference about living in Cincinnati than Fort Worth? The weather, I guess. Right now it's 50 degrees and I'm sure right now it's 80 to 90 degrees back in Fort Worth. We like it here. We're in a good area and it's starting to feel like another home.
You and Jordan bought a house in Fort Worth and plan to spend part of the off-season here. Cowtown must have really left an impression on y'all, right? We just like being in Fort Worth. We're both not too far from family. A lot of our friends are from the area, and we liked Fort Worth a lot.
How's married life? We're almost at 10 months. We're loving it. It's been great.
When did you last go to Sweet Sammies, your old Wednesday date night spot? We actually went right before we had to come back up here.
How did you react to the news that TCU was moving to the Big 12? I thought that was smart. It's the conference we should have been in the whole time. When it was the Big East, I thought that didn't make much sense location-wise, but I was kind of happy that TCU would come up to Cincinnati. But the Big 12 just makes the most sense. It's a great conference and there's definitely going to be some exciting games, some shootouts.
Did the great season Casey Pachall had as a first-year starter surprise you?No. Right when he came in [in 2009] you knew he was talented. So it didn't surprise me. He'd show flashes of play like that when I was there. What he has to do is take control of that team and make it his. I know they have guys back at receiver, and obviously they still have the same running backs I was playing with, so I think he's going to do great again this year.
How shocked were you by the drug-selling scandal in February? It's an unfortunate situation. You never want that type of thing to happen, but I think TCU did the right thing by applying the discipline that it did. They took action and did the right thing. Some people got caught up in the wrong thing, and they're having to pay for their decisions. I think coach [Gary] Patterson has done a great job and he's going to get everybody else ready.