With former Duke standout Thad Lewis scheduled to start for the Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh on Sunday (1 p.m.), the ACC should have six NFL quarterback starters at the end of regular-season play.
Aside from Lewis, there’s Russell Wilson (N.C. State, Seattle Seahawks), Philip Rivers (NCSU, San Diego State), Matt Schaub (Virginia, Houston Texans), Matt Ryan (Boston College, Atlanta Hawks) and Christian Ponder (Florida State, Minnesota Vikings).
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Lewis has been on the Browns roster all season but has been third on the depth chart _ behind normal starter Brandon Weeden and fellow sub Colt McCoy. Sunday will be Lewis’ NFL debut.
Weeden has battled a shoulder injury of late and was officially ruled out on Saturday. McCoy is out as the result of a concussion. The Browns are 5-10 and out of playoff contention, as are the Steelers (7-8).
In four seasons with the Blue Devils, 2006-09, Lewis was named all-ACC and threw for more than 10,000 yards.
"It's exciting," Lewis told The Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper. "Once you get the official word that you're starting, it's a blessing for a childhood dream come true. It's an opportunity, and you have to go out and make the best of it.
“Part of my childhood dream was to be a starter one day in the NFL. Who it was against, I didn't have a visual of that. But it's a challenge, and if you don't like challenges, then you're in the wrong sport. It's a great challenge for this offense to go against the No. 1 defense and try to be successful."
Other Duke quarterbacks to start in the NFL were Sonny Jurgensen, Bob Broadhead, Leo Hart, Al Woodall, Dave Brown and Anthony Dilweg.
In a news release by Duke, coach David Cutcliffe expressed excitement for his former player.
“We could not be more excited for Thaddeus,” Cutcliffe said. “He is an exceptional young man who has worked extremely hard, and it is not by accident that he has this opportunity.”
In three preseason appearances, Lewis completed nine of 17 passes for 149 yards.