Timeline: The moments that made Byron Leftwich

Byron Leftwich through the years, from Marshall to Jacksonville to the Steelers to the Buccaneers. (Associated Press, Associated Press)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Byron Leftwich is in the mix to be the next head coach of the Jaguars. That buzz has picked up considerably since late Tuesday night.

How’d he get to that point? The 42-year-old Leftwich traveled a unique path from the Washington, D.C., area to the NFL.

Here are some of the key moments in his journey.

Before college

Leftwich was a star at H.D. Woodson High in Washington, D.C. He helped lead that team to a DCIAA championship in 1997 and signed with Marshall out of high school. Leftwich played multiple sports before college.

A college icon

A college football superstar at Marshall, Leftwich led the Thundering Herd to a pair of Mid-American Conference championships. Leftwich set a MAC record for passing yards (11,903), completions (939) and completion percentage (.651). Fans may not remember Leftwich’s career, but they probably recall one of the most memorable scenes in college football history.

Marshall quarterback Byron Leftwich (7) is carried from the field by teammate J.T. Rembert (32) and an unidentified team assistant after Akron's 34-20 win Saturday, Nov. 2, 2002, in Akron, Ohio. Leftwich injured his leg in the first quarter and came back in the game in the third quarter. (AP Photo/Phil Long) (AP2002)

Leftwich broke his left shin in the first quarter of a Nov. 2, 2002, game against Akron. He returned in the fourth quarter, hobbling. Leftwich’s offensive linemen carried him down the field after plays, scenes that live on to this day as some of the gutsiest in college history. Marshall lost, 34-20, but Leftwich passed for 307 yards on a 26-for-38 day. Leftwich finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy race that season.

Welcome to Jacksonville!

The Ravens tried to make a deal with the Vikings during the 2003 draft, but time actually ran out before the deal was made official. With the Jaguars set to pick eighth and the Vikings failing to make their choice at seven due to the botched trade, the Jaguars jumped in front of Minnesota and took Leftwich at No. 7. Baltimore was said to be targeting Leftwich with that trade. Carolina, set to pick ninth originally, then jumped in front of Minnesota and took offensive tackle Jordan Gross. The Vikings finally got their pick in at No. 9 and drafted defensive tackle Kevin Williams. Such chaos in the first round of the draft happened just one time after that, in 2011, and it again involved Baltimore.

Byron Leftwich, right, a quarterback from Marshall, is joined onstage by NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue after he was selected as the Jacksonville Jaguars first pick, and the seventh overall, at the National Football League draft Saturday, April 26, 2003 in New York. (AP Photo/Ed Betz) (Associated Press)

Replacing a legend

Leftwich was drafted to succeed popular quarterback Mark Brunell, the franchise’s starter since its first season in 1995. He made his first career start in the team’s fourth game of the 2003 season, going 17 of 36 for 231 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Jacksonville traded Brunell before the start of the 2004 season making the Jaguars officially Leftwich’s team.

Strong start for rookie

In 2004, Leftwich’s first full season as the unquestioned starter, he started 14 games and had an 8-6 record. Leftwich passed for a career-high 2,941 passing yards and a career-high 15 touchdown passes.

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Byron Leftwich (7) responds to the cheers of Jaguars fans as he leaves the field after the Jaguars defeated the Tennessee Titans 31-28 on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2005, in Nashville, Tenn. Leftwich threw for 258 yards and three touchdowns and also ran for a touchdown. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey) (2005 AP )

Promising season halted

Leftwich started the first 11 games of the 2005 season but suffered a broken ankle in a game against the Cardinals in Week 12. Statistically, Leftwich’s start was the best of his career. He had 2,123 passing yards, 15 TDs and just five interceptions at the point of his injury. Leftwich returned for Jacksonville’s wildcard playoff game against the Patriots, a 28-3 loss. Ironically, that game came against quarterback Tom Brady, a player Leftwich would later coach in Tampa Bay.

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Byron Leftwich, left, embraces New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady after the Patriots defeated the Jaguars, 28-3, in their wild card playoff football game in Foxborough, Mass., Saturday, Jan. 7, 2006. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) (2006 AP )

Struggles and benching

Leftwich started the first six games of the season, but his ankle was injured again, and the struggles were noticeable in the team’s 3-3 start. The final start of his Jacksonville career came on Oct. 22, 2006, a 27-14 loss to the Texans. Del Rio replaced Leftwich with David Garrard for the remainder of the season. Leftwich passed for 1,159 yards, seven touchdowns and five interceptions.

Cut by the Jaguars

Then-coach Jack Del Rio cut Leftwich before the start of the 2007 season, replacing him with Garrard as the full-time starter.

Leftwich’s next stop: Atlanta

Leftwich signed a contract with the Falcons to serve as a backup to Joey Harrington. In three games with the Falcons, Leftwich passed for 279 yards and a touchdown. He was released after the season.

Steelers, Part I

Leftwich signed with Pittsburgh in April 2008 and played in relief of Ben Roethlisberger in five games. He passed for 303 yards and two touchdowns.

To the Bucs he goes

Leftwich signed with Tampa Bay in April 2009 and made three starts in Tampa Bay to open the season, passing for 594 yards and four touchdowns. He was benched after an 0-3 start.

Back to the Steelers

The Buccaneers traded Leftwich for a seventh-round pick in mid-April 2010. He played in one game that season, going 5 for 7 for 42 yards. He missed the 2011 season with a broken arm and played in two games in 2012. Leftwich passed for 272 yards that season.

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Byron Leftwich looks to pass during the first quarter of a preseason NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in Pittsburgh, Saturday, Aug. 14, 2010 in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar) (Associated Press)

New career begins

Leftwich broke into the coaching ranks in 2016 with the Cardinals as an intern. The following January, Bruce Arians hired Leftwich as the team’s quarterbacks coach. He got a shot as the team’s offensive coordinator in an interim role after the team fired Mike McCoy on Oct. 19, 2018. Leftwich was fired after the season ended.

In this Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018, file photo, Arizona Cardinals rookie quarterback Josh Rosen (3) talks with then-quarterbacks coach Byron Leftwich during the second half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears in Glendale, Ariz. Leftwich, who has been promoted to offensive coordinator, is the fifth coordinator that Rosen has had in the past five seasons. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso, File) (Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Big break in Tampa Bay

Arians took the head coaching job with the Buccaneers on Jan. 8, 2019. He later hired Leftwich as his offensive coordinator. He worked with Jameis Winston as his quarterback that season.

Brady arrives

Iconic quarterback Tom Brady signed with Tampa Bay in free agency, and Leftwich got a shot to work with the most dominant passer in NFL history. The Buccaneers beat the Chiefs 31-9 to win the Super Bowl.

Coming up short

In Leftwich’s third season with the Buccaneers, Tampa Bay reached the conference semifinals but came up short in a 30-27 loss to the Rams.

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.