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Thursday, August 29, 2002
Updated: August 30, 11:55 AM ET
Zbikowski's versatility makes him a unique talent

By Tom Lemming
Special to ESPN.com

Tommy Zbikowski is not only the state of Illinois' top athlete, but he's also one of the nation's top 25 football players. He's a unique player the likes of which I haven't seen in a long time. Zbikowski's great burst and amazing speed make him an explosive player on either side of the ball. Not only is he a lights out running QB, but he also has the potential to be a super FS or CB.

Zbikowski threw 14 touchdown passes in 2001.
Zbikowski's running skills are second to none. When I watch him throw the ball, he's obviously not a polished quarterback, but he does throw over the top, and he's got a good release and much stronger enough arm than most people think. I believe that he has All-American ability at QB -- at the right program.

Zbikowski didn't play a lot of DB early, but he did during the playoffs and was the best player on the field. He's got great instincts to the ball and when you combine that with his toughness and 4.3 speed he could really become a big-time defensive player. He's one of the two hardest-hitting DB prospects in the Midwest.

What makes him stand out is that he's got tremendous football smarts. He's a kid born to play football -- he loves it. He may be the toughest kid I've seen come out of Illinois. I was too young to see Dick Butkus, but he's the toughest I've seen in 23 years to come out of Chicago. He's an NFL player waiting to happen on either side of the ball.

Tom Lemming is a recruiting analyst for ESPN.com.