TERRE HAUTE, IND. -- As a 13-year-old, football wasn’t the only priority in young Ryan Landwehr’s life.
The seventh-grader from Tipp City, Ohio, was also a darn good speller.
Well, except for one word.
“I still remember the word I got knocked out on: academician,” Landwehr, now the senior starting quarterback for the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology football team, said with a laugh, recalling his days as the Miami County District Spelling Bee Champion.
“Yeah, I won it at the county level, that was the seventh grade,” he added. “It was kind of a junior high spelling bee, and they made so much fun of me at school that I didn’t do it in eighth grade. I was like, ‘I’m done.’”
No one’s making fun of Landwehr these days.
The 6-foot-6, 220-pound quarterback stands tall and confidently, as he should. Not only is he excelling in the classroom – he’ s a 4.0 G.P.A, electrical engineering major – he’s earned his spot as the Engineers’ starter under center for the first time in his career.
When the quarterback battle started in preseason, there were eight potential QBs fighting for the spot. When Landwehr came out the winner – after three years as a reserve – you could say he was excited.
“Indescribable,” Landwehr said of the moment he learned he earned the job.
As a freshman, he only played on the scout team. Sophomore year, he made just one appearance. Last season, Landwehr spent some time as not only a backup quarterback (he went 11 for 27 for 130 yards), he also played wide receiver and tight end.
“I mean, he made it a difficult decision last year when we had a three-year starter, because he was doing such a good job off the field and on the field,” Rose-Hulman Head Coach Jeff Sokol said. “We tried to find ways to get him on the field last year.”
Needless to say, it was tough for Landwehr to be patient. He realizes now, it’s all paid off.
Through the Engineers’ first two games, he leads the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference in total offense with 280 yards per game. In Week 2’s tight 27-17 loss to Centre, Landwehr had his best performance yet, as his pass attempts (60) and completions (36) ranked second in program history.
“It was tough,” he said about biding his time as a reserve. “To put all that kind of work into it, doing everything that everyone else does, but then I’m not on the field on Saturday, it was tough.
“But it’s worth it – I mean, I’m having the time of my life right now. “
But how did he stay motivated?
“Football’s kind of my release,” he said. “Rose is a stressful place, there’s a lot of pressure put on us, and you know, getting to walk out onto the football field and cross the bridge and leave that all behind me and just go hit some people (made it worth it).”
Off the field, Landwehr has already found plenty of success. His high GPA – which earned him the electrical and computer engineering department’s Most Outstanding Sophomore Award – has also helped him land three prestigious internships.
He spent his first two summers working for General Motors plants in both Warren, Mich., and Fort Wayne, Ind., followed by a position for the defense company Raytheon in Dallas, Texas, this past summer.
Sokol pointed to Landwehr’s dedication to school as part of what makes him a great leader of the Engineers’ offense.
“I imagine he takes the same approach in the classroom that he takes to football, that he’s going to do all the preparation that’s required of him, not take any shortcuts,” Sokol said. “He doesn’t like to be surprised on Saturday, and I’m sure he’s the same way in the classroom. He wants to know everything that our opponents are going to do, and when they do it, he wants to have the answer and execute it.
“… I think the guys on the team really respect him, they respect that he’s earned his position, that he’s been patient. He takes his preparation so seriously, I think it inspires the other guys to take their preparation equally as seriously.”
And while Landwehr’s evolution to the starting quarterback job hasn’t been typical, the senior said that’s OK.
“It feels right,” he said. “As far as the experience, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
And of his goals, with eight regular-season games remaining in his collegiate career, they’re simple.
“(My job is) to keep the offense together, and as long as they’re focused and think we have a fighting chance, I think there’s no team out there we can’t put up a fight against,” he said.
“My goal is always to get a win, no matter how we’ve got to do it.”