EAST LIVERPOOL - If Lou Holtz Hall of Fame supporters thought this year's banquet tickets sold out early, just wait until next year.
The Hall of Fame officially announced the guest speaker for the 2014 fundraising event is Ben Roethlisberger, quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"In an effort to handle what we expect will be a huge interest here in the heart of the Steeler Nation, we've taken a couple of unprecedented steps," Director Robin Webster said in a release. "We have begun taking 'pre-orders' for tickets, which will go on sale Jan. 16, 2014. So you can guarantee the availability of your ticket by calling to get on that list, giving us your name and a number where you can be reached."
Additionally, Webster said, the Hall of Fame has made special arrangements with the venue to be able to seat 650 for the 2014 banquet, which will be served buffet style. Plans are also underway to "live feed" the activity at the speaker's podium onto eight wall-mounted flat-screen televisions, so those seated all around the room will have a close-up view of the guest speaker, as well as inductees, who will be announced at a later date.
The 2013 event saw the highest ticket sales in the hall's 15-year history, with more than 530 seated for the meal. Unfortunately, dozens interested in seeing the induction and hearing the guest speaker, Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer, were turned away in the weeks just prior to the event, because it had sold out well in advance.
"We're making the announcement for next year's event months earlier than usual in the hopes that we can accommodate ticket sales for all of our loyal supporters as well as those drawn to this rare opportunity to see and hear Roethlisberger at an off-the-field appearance," Webster said.
Tickets are $110, which covers admission, the meal, commemorative gifts and a chance at prize drawings held during the event. Of that cost, $50 is tax deductible.
The 2014 banquet will be June 16 at the St. Florian Hall in Wintersville.
Roethlisberger, 31, was born in Lima, Ohio, and grew up just outside of Findlay, playing for Findlay High School and eventually heading to Miami (Ohio) University to play for the RedHawks.
He took a redshirt season in 2000 then won the starting job in 2001, throwing for 3,105 yards with 25 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He followed that with a solid second season as a starter in 2002, throwing for 3,238 yards and 22 TDs. During his junior season he completed nearly 70 percent of his passes and set just about every Miami passing record. The RedHawks rolled to the Mid-American Conference championship with a 49-27 victory against Bowling Green State on Dec. 4, 2003. He set a title-game record with 440 passing yards.
At the end of that season, he announced his eligibility for the NFL draft, and his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers was set to begin. Roethlisberger stepped into the role of starting quarterback in just the second game of the season and became what many would argue is the best rookie quarterback to ever play the game. He led the Steelers to a 15-1 record as a starter, losing only in the AFC Championship. He set many rookie passing records, including best passer rating (98.1 percent), and highest completion percentage (66.4). On Jan. 5, 2005, he was unanimously selected as the the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year by the Associated Press, only the second quarterback to achieve that honor.
When the Steelers chose Roethlisberger with the 11th pick of the 2004 NFL Draft, they found themselves with a franchise player who became the youngest NFL quarterback to win a Super Bowl, in his second season. He would then lead them to an unprecedented 6th Super Bowl title three years later. While doing so, he would live out one of his childhood dreams - to step on the field and lead his team on the winning drive in a Super Bowl.
The rest is NFL history. He has led the Steelers to three AFC Championships, three Super Bowls and two Lombardi trophies. He is a two-time Pro Bowl quarterback who boasts a career quarterback rating of 92.7 with a win/loss record of 87-39 in regular season games and 10-4 in the playoffs. He holds numerous Steelers passing records, including career passing yards (29,844).