For those who haven’t heard (which is likely nobody by now), Dak Prescott went down with a gruesome ankle injury in the third quarter of the Dallas Cowboys‘ Week 5 matchup with the New York Giants on Sunday afternoon. The NFL’s most high-profile backup quarterback, Andy Dalton, came in to finish the game and completed nine of 11 passes for 111 yards to lead Dallas to a 37-34 victory, a win that put the 2-3 Cowboys in first place in the woeful NFC East. So with Dak on the shelf for the remainder of the season and Dalton as the starter, who is the Cowboys’ new backup quarterback? The answer to that question, at least for the moment, is rookie Ben DiNucci.
Ben DiNucci began his college career at Pitt
Born in 1996 in Atlanta, Ben DiNucci attended Pine-Richland High School in Gibsonia, Pennsylvania, and became the starting quarterback for the Rams as a sophomore. But before he ever got to high school, he actually played eighth-grade basketball for the late Joe McCarthy, the younger brother of current Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy.
Ben DiNucci became one of the top quarterbacks in Pennsylvania and was named a USA Today Second-Team All-American as a senior. He became the first quarterback in state history to throw for 4,000 yards, finishing the 2014 season with 4,269 yards and 46 touchdowns against just nine interceptions while leading the Rams to a state title.
DiNucci originally committed to play college football for Penn but changed his mind and accepted a scholarship to Pitt. As a redshirt freshman for the Panthers in 2016, he was the backup to Nathan Peterman, who is now Derek Carr’s backup for the Las Vegas Raiders, and appeared in just one game, which just happened to be the Pinstripe Bowl when Peterman went down with an injury, and completed three of nine passes for 16 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions.
DiNucci was again the backup to start the 2017 season but was named the starter when USC transfer Max Browne suffered a season-ending shoulder injury midway through the year. However, he lost his job to true freshman Kenny Pickett and decided to transfer to James Madison University for his final two seasons.
He became an FCS All-American at James Madison
Upon arriving at James Madison, Ben DiNucci was named the starting quarterback for the Dukes in 2018 and had a solid season. He completed 68.3% of his passes for 2,275 yards and 16 touchdowns and also led the team with nine rushing touchdowns.
As a senior in 2019, DiNucci started every game for the second consecutive season and led the team all the way to the FCS national title game, which the Dukes lost to North Dakota State, which shouldn’t be looked at as a negative as the Bison have won eight of the last nine FCS titles. Ben DiNucci earned All-American honors in his final year at James Madison, leading the nation in completion percentage (70.9%) while throwing for 3,441 yards and 29 touchdowns against just six interceptions. He was also named the Colonial Athletic Association’s Offensive Player of the Year and was a First-Team All-CAA selection.
Ben DiNucci was taken by the Dallas Cowboys in the seventh round of the 2020 NFL draft
According to Dallas Morning News reporter Michael Gehlken, Ben DiNucci had gotten calls from the Chicago Bears and Cleveland Browns about signing as an undrafted free agent ahead of the 2020 NFL draft. However, the Dallas Cowboys had told him that they would draft him in the seventh round if he was still on the board, which he was.
The Cowboys selected him with the 231st overall pick and he earned the third-string role behind Dak Prescott and Andy Dalton by beating out former Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson in training camp. DiNucci has yet to make the active roster in 2020 but things have obviously changed for the Dallas Cowboys. It looks as if the Cowboys won’t be bringing in a big name at this time as they just signed journeyman Garrett Gilbert off the Cleveland Browns’ practice squad so Ben DiNucci should be in uniform as QB2 when the Cowboys take on the Arizona Cardinals in Week 6 on Monday Night Football on ESPN.
Stats courtesy of Sports-Reference