After coming out of suburban Indianapolis as a three-star recruit in 2016, Max Bortenschlager signed with Maryland and had a bit of a seesaw career. He started nine games in his first two seasons with the Terrapins, throwing for 1,522 yards with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions.
However, he battled through injuries and endured numerous coaching changes, resulting in him not seeing snaps at quarterback in 2018 and 2019.
Bortenschlager transferred to Florida International in 2020 and started 14 contests over his two seasons, setting the program record for passing yards in a season (2,935) and passing yards in a game (466).
“What really blew me away about Max was his maturity,” said former FIU assistant Bryn Renner. “He’s seen every single coverage you can see in college football and I knew he had the ability. I challenged him every day and he has the competitive nature needed to play this position. I’ve never been around a smarter quarterback and I believe he has a shot to get into a camp and impress people.”
Bortenschlager sat down with UDD as he’s at the College Gridiron Showcase, a four-day event held in Fort Worth, Texas for professional scouts to get a look at players from each level of college football.
Note: Interview has been edited for clarity.
Eric Henry: You’re an Indiana kid and you land smack dab in South Florida. What’s that adjustment like?
Max: It was definitely different. In Indiana, there’s stuff to do in the spring and summer when it warms up, but in the winter you can go a couple of days without even seeing the sun. So, going down to Miami, you got the sun every day. You basically put on a t-shirt and shorts every day and you’re good to go. Took a little bit of growing on me, Miami, but I miss it. It was a good time and FIU as a school and a team was a great experience. I’m really grateful for FIU and my time there.
Eric: Did you have like a moment or was there a moment where you looked around Miami and was like, man, this is so much different than anything I’ve ever experienced?
Max: Yeah, Indy is a pretty small city and then, Miami was just, you got the East coast-ish kind of vibe, but then you’ve got all the international vibe and it’s just like a really cool city. As I said, it did take a while to get used to, but kind of grew an appreciation for it and I miss it a bit.
Eric: Walk me through what you’ve been up to since the season ended.
Max: So right after the season, I took about a week and a half off, let my body heal up and recover and then slowly started getting back into the swing of things. Then trying to focus on stretching, staying kind of limber and stuff, just because I’ve had some back problems and all that, but I started getting back into the swing of things, started working out again, lifting and then the past, I’d say three weeks. I started throwing quite a bit more. I’m really excited to head down to Texas for CGS.
Eric: Who are you training with?
Max: Yeah, his name is Levar Johson and his facility is called Focus Sports Training. I’ve actually been training with him since my junior year of high school, throwing wise. He runs a mock pro day and training camp in Jacksonville leading up to pro days. So after the CGS, I’ll be going down there with him.
Eric: What are some of the areas that you feel that you need to work on in order to get prepped for the next level?
Max: Always working on my athleticism has been a thing for me. I’m not a guy that’s going to go run a 4.5 or anything. But just really working on, after watching back in the season, working the pocket, keeping my eyes downfield while working the pocket and then just being able to be an athlete within the pocket, not necessarily having to go break a 20-yard run, but getting out of the way just enough to get the pass off. And then, if I have to, being able to get out of the pocket or step up in the pocket and go get 5 to 10 yards. So that’s always been an emphasis for me.
Then just continuing to learn and grow as a quarterback by watching film, seeing ways that I can improve my decision-making, and just really watching film so that it becomes more second nature when processing information. I think that’s a really big advantage that I have. I feel like I’ve been able to process playbooks and defenses at a pretty good level, but I think that building on top of that can set me apart.
Eric: Max, you had quite a few offensive coordinators?
Max: Yeah, it was, I believe this past year was my fifth. Walt Bell, Matt Canada, Scotty Montgomery at Maryland for probably then (Rich) Skrosky and (Andrew) Breiner.
Eric: Would you say that’s a strength as a player for you? Having the ability to just process information, whether it be out there on the field or playbook?
Max: I definitely think that’s probably one of my biggest strengths, from the shoulders up. I think I’m a pretty smart guy and I do think I can process pretty well. It was kind of a blessing in disguise because it taught me how to learn a playbook really quickly and pick it up and then process it. Each (playbook) kind of does the same stuff but has its own little twists to it. So I think being able to hear it in a couple of different ways and then seeing what guys use the same terminology, what guys use different terminology, all of that, I think it actually, I think it’s helped me be able to learn playbooks a little bit at a faster pace.
I also take pride in my accuracy, especially I think this past season, I really made strides in my deep ball accuracy. That was a pretty big point of emphasis in the off-season for me. So I’d like to keep building on that moving forward.
Eric: You had to battle some injuries in your career, did it kind of prove something to yourself that you were able to able make it through the entire season healthy?
Max: It did feel good. I had those setbacks with my ankle and I knew once it was good to go, I knew that I would be able to play through a season and play pretty well through a season.
So, that kind of gave me some confidence, but it definitely just felt good, just having all those setbacks. It just felt really good to have a full year under my belt. And it’s weird because I am an older guy. This is my sixth year, but I think missing out on all that time, I still have a lot of developing to do. And I see that as a good thing.
I think that I’m still chasing my full potential, which I think most guys are, but, I don’t really feel as old as my grade because of all those setbacks, so I think that it’s almost, I see it as an advantage, because I still played well at the level this year, but I still see so much growth in my game.
Eric: Talk about your relationship with your former quarterbacks' coach, Bryn Renner.
Max: I owe so much credit to him. He had so much confidence in me. He instilled so much confidence in me and he really became like a big brother for me. We still talk pretty regularly, but it was unbelievable the impact that he had on my life and on my game. So super blessed to have had him this last year.
Eric: Tell me some of your favorite memories at FIU.
Max: The Charlotte game when Tyrese (Chambers) tied the single-game record or tied with T.Y. (Hilton) and then I didn’t even realize that I also set a record that game. It was pretty cool. And then I think the Southern Miss game. Even though these games didn’t go the way we wanted them to go.
It’s an honor to hold records at a school. Especially to do it with Tyrese too, just because we put in so much work in the off-season. He was a new guy to the school and we’d go out to the field at like eight o’clock at night. We’d have to ask Jed (Keime) to turn the lights on for us and stuff.
Eric: Given everything you’ve been through in your career, how much do you cherish the fact that you have a school record?
Max: It’s extremely cool. Especially, because it was Alex McGough’s record. Just breaking a guy like his record is cool just because he kind of paved the way for the quarterbacks at FIU. It’s really satisfying too because I knew I always had it in me to play at a really high level. I just believed I needed the opportunity and I finally got it. There are still things that I need to learn and work on, but I think it validated to myself what I’m really capable of and it motivated me to want to keep going and really try to chase my full potential.