Background and College
Born June 12, 1986 in Portland, Oregon, Ainge grew up in Glencoe and attended Glencoe High School. As a freshman and sophomore, he played baseball and basketball in addition to football. Ainge was the starting pitcher on his baseball team and was said to throw a 90 mph fastball. He also averaged 17 points, 8 rebounds, and three assists in basketball as a junior, and as a senior was a preseason honorable mention on the Street and Smith's All-American team. He was a two-year starter at quarterback on the football team, leading the Crimson Tide as deep as the Oregon state quarterfinals. As a junior he passed for 2,559 yards and 16 touchdowns. As a senior, he passed for 3,078 for 475 yards, 5 touchdowns and no interceptions to lead the Crimson Tide to 62 points through three quarters of action. Following his senior season Ainge was named all-state, prep star all-American, and the 2003 Oregon Gatorade Player of the Year.
As a freshman at UT in 2004, Ainge threw 17 touchdown passes in 9 games, breaking Peyton Manning's freshman TD record of 15. His 1,452 passing yards ranked second behind Manning in UT freshman history. In 2005, his sophomore season, he threw 5 touchdown passes and 7 interceptions. One of his most infamous moments was in a game against LSU where he was being sacked in the end zone and flung the ball up into the air just before he was ruled down for a safety. Ainge's head also hit the goalpost on the play, tweaking his neck As a junior in 2006, Ainge was named the starter heading into spring practice, and for the first time in his career was able to take all of the first team reps throughout the preseason. Ainge also had a new position coach and offensive coordinator when David Cutcliffe replaced Randy Sanders. He led his team to 7-1 record before being injured in the closing minutes of a game against South Carolina. He would then miss the majority of the next two losses for Tennessee before returning to lead his team to season-ending wins against Vanderbilt and Kentucky. During the season Ainge would set career highs in most statistical categories and break the Tennessee single-season record for completion percentage. He now owns a 17-5 record as a starter. The 2007 Outback Bowl was the first bowl appearance for Ainge. He had a solid outing in a 20-10 loss to Penn State. Ainge missed the 2005 Cotton Bowl due to injury, and the Vols did not qualify for a bowl game following his sophomore season. On March 8, 2007 it was reported that Ainge would have to undergo surgery for a torn meniscus. Ainge stated that the injury occurred during weightlifting exercise. He is 100% recovered, and it has had no effect on his 2007 season. A similar injury to former Vols receiver Robert Meachem caused him to miss his entire freshman season. Rivals.com named Ainge as one of the top-10 quarterbacks going into the 2007 season. Ainge's senior year statistics included 3,522 passing yards, 31 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions. He completed 62.6 % of his passes and had a 135.48 QB rating, despite nagging injuries which hampered him all season.
As a Jet
Ainge was taken by the Jets with twenty-seventh pick of the fifth round (162nd overall) of the 2008 NFL Draft. On July 16, he signed a four-year, $1.87 million contract with a $165,000 signing bonus.
Ainge's father, Doug Ainge, attended Brigham Young University on a basketball scholarship and is currently a basketball coach at Linfield College. His grandfather, Don Ainge, was drafted by the Boston Red Sox; he declined their offer. He also earned a football/basketball scholarship to the University of Oregon in 1954-1955. His uncle, Danny Ainge, is a former professional basketball and baseball player who starred in the NBA for the Boston Celtics, the Sacramento Kings, the Portland Trail Blazers and the Phoenix Suns, and also played Major League Baseball for the Toronto Blue Jays.