INDIANAPOLIS — Born in St. Louis, Western Michigan quarterback Kaleb Eleby dreamed of playing for the St. Louis Rams.
The pristine image of an NFL team was the fuel a young Eleby needed to pursue a dream. The Rams moved to Los Angeles, but Eleby’s dream never wavered. Getting a victory at Ford Field in the Quick Lane Bowl to end his college career, Eleby feels accomplished at the college level.
However, he had set one key goal for himself prior to the 2021 college football season — to beat a Power Five team. Western Michigan only had two and maybe a third chance to get this done. It started off with a tough game against in-state opponent Michigan. Then, it would be a trip to Pittsburgh to face an upstart Pitt team with Kenny Pickett.
Both teams were undeniably more talented, but at the very least, the Broncos had two NFL players in Eleby and his receiver Skyy Moore.
Well, Eleby, Moore, and the Broncos walked in Heinz Field on Sept. 18, and knocked off Pickett and the Panthers 44-41 in front of a stunned crowd. Pitt went on to win the ACC Championship, with Eleby and Western Michigan being one of the few blemishes on a fantastic resume. For Eleby, it felt like a sense of accomplishment. However, it was not just on an individual level, but on a team level.
“This past season one of my goals was to be able to beat a Power Five team coming from the MAC Conference, everybody kind of has that mentality, that chip on their shoulder that they want to execute and show that they can play,” Eleby said. “To be able to get that Pitt win against a good team, great quarterback, that was big. It just shows that hard work and dedication do pay off.”
The team was the benefactors of an unbelievable game from Eleby. He diced up the Panthers’ secondary for three touchdowns and 337 passing yards. Two receivers in Corey Crooms and Moore cracked one hundred against Pitt. The offense propelled the Broncos’ victory with excellent execution.
“That was a big performance,” Eleby said. “That game a lot of people talk about, but the biggest thing, we were able to execute as a team. It just kind of showed what we had as a team. Obviously, the Pitt win was big. Every week you go out and try to execute as best you can. That week we ended up executing as best as we can. We faced a good team, the ACC champs, we had a good performance, so it was a blessing.”
Eleby would not have been able to push Pitt to victory without the help of his accuracy, however. When he throws the ball, it could go right through a car wash. Eleby is a dynamic thrower with his accuracy, and his ball placement may be the best in the class bar none.
“Accuracy is important,” Eleby said. That allows for run after the catch. A quarterback, your job is to distribute the ball to the playmakers and let them guys do the rest. My biggest goal is to distribute the ball when it needs to be there, how it needs to be there and let the guys do the rest.”
Eleby is still stuck in the next tier of quarterbacks and is a likely mid-round pick. However, with his youth and high-level accuracy, he is perfectly made for a guy who has a lengthy career.