Syracuse Orange quarterback Ryan Nassib has come a long way from the young passer who used to split time in the 2009 season with Greg Paulus.
As Syracuse's backup in head coach Doug Marrone's first season, it was difficult to tell what Nassib could and would be for the Orange.
Nassib was a work-in-progress all throughout the following season. He completed less than 60% of his passes in eight of the team's 12 matches.
But despite poor accuracy, Nassib guided the Orange to a victory over a top 25-ranked team, when they prevented Geno Smith and the West Virginia Mountaineers from a win on their home field. Under Nassib, the Orange would defeat a nationally-ranked team in the top 25 at the time of play in each of the three seasons he started at quarterback.
Overall, he helped to lead Syracuse to a winning season at 7-5 and their first bowl appearance since the departure of former head coach Paul Pasqualoni.
In the first-ever New Era Pinstripe Bowl, played at Yankee Stadium, Nassib connected on 13 of his 21 passes (61.9%), throwing for over 200 yards, including three passes that resulted in touchdowns.
He helped the Orange stay with the Wildcats of Kansas State all throughout the game, never once seeming to give up or give in, something that would become more clear later in his career.
Syracuse won that game, 36-34, gaining their first bowl victory since 2001, when Syracuse, ironically, defeated Kansas State, 26-3 in the Insight.com Bowl.
In 2011, Nassib elevated his passing game, aiding the Orange to a 5-2 start. Within those seven contests, Nassib's completion percentage only dipped below 60% twice. In the other five games, he connected with his receivers a minimum of 66% of the time, completing at least 70% of his pass attempts in three separate games.
Within those seven games, Nassib assisted Syracuse in attaining a victory in overtime all but once out of three attempts.
But, in the final five matches of the season, Nassib's completion percentage was around 60% or less in all but one match and he was almost even in touchdowns and interceptions thrown, with seven touchdowns to five interceptions.
Syracuse did not win any of those last five games, as the offense, defense, and special teams failed to all work together.
So, at this point, some of the blame was falling on Nassib, and the sign of a true leader is how they rise after they fall.
In nine of Syracuse's 12 regular season contests in 2012, Nassib not only completed better than 60% of his passes, but he elevated that number to at least 65% accuracy in seven of those nine games.
After a slow start in September, where the Orange went 1-3, Nassib would guide the team to a 6-2 finish in the regular season, including winning five of their final six matches.
In three seasons as Syracuse's starting quarterback, Nassib would help the team gain a spot in the postseason twice.
At the end of the 2012 regular season, Nassib, with 24 touchdowns to nine interceptions, would help the Orange return to the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.
Back in Yankee Stadium, the environment this time featured rain and snow, making the game more of a ground-first contest. Nassib did help the Orange rushing attack, led by running back Prince-Tyson Gulley, by completing passes to five different receivers for a total of 134 yards.
Those final 134 yards gave Nassib 9,194 career passing yards, a new record for a Syracuse quarterback, passing the previous high held by Marvin Graves, who attained 8,466 yards through the air.
Nassib ended his collegiate career gaining more yards per game than any other Orange quarterback, as well by besting Graves' 196.9 passing yards per game by three yards, averaging 199.9 passing yards per game.
His 792 career completions also reset the bar for Orange quarterbacks of the future, connecting in excess of 200 completions more than the previous holder of the title, Graves, who had completed 563 of his passes.
Even more impressive about those 792 career completions is that Nassib took more attempts (1,313) than any other Orange quarterback and still completed more passes than any of the Syracuse alum. Graves was second once again, with 943 attempted passes.
Nassib lies in second place in completion percentage for a Syracuse quarterback with 60.3%, with Greg Paulus ahead at 67.7%.
70 of the passes Nassib completed went for touchdowns, giving him the second-highest total, behind only Donovan McNabb, who ended his time with the Orange after attaining 77 passing touchdowns.
A category you do not want to lead in, interceptions, has Nassib tied with Todd Norley for the fourth-most interceptions thrown by a Syracuse quarterback, with 28. Troy Nunes, Bernie Custis, and Marvin Graves all had more. Graves leads with 45.
Nassib consistently improved all throughout his career, coming back each season only to perform better. As he took more attempts through the air, he completed more passes. He gained more passing yards and continued to achieve more touchdowns. From 2009 through 2012, Nassib elevated his performance, outdoing himself in each of these categories with each passing season.
But yet, his name still does not roll off the tongues of some, nor does it carry through their minds. He does not come from a BCS-powerhouse school, nor has he been a finalist for the Heisman trophy.
However, his legacy was not handed to him. All that was placed in Nassib's hands was a football, a football he used to help lead the Orange out of their darkest era in recent history. With Nassib as the team's starting quarterback, Syracuse has an overall record of 21-17, including two bowl berths which both resulted in victories.
For someone to help create a new atmosphere around a football program that had lost its way, their time on the field cannot and should not be understated.
The pressure has been on Nassib's shoulders since the moment he signed his national letter of intent with Syracuse University, even if he did not know that at the time.
Instead of buckling under that pressure, Nassib seemed to always look calm, poised to make the next play.
He has been a student of the game, while also teaching the Syracuse faithful how a little hope can go a long way.
Other quarterbacks may be able to give you the coveted numbers, but you cannot teach heart, nor can you teach will. For the sake of the NFL institutions, let us hope that they have learned from the short-sight of the college programs that did not turn the spotlight on Nassib when they had the opportunity to.