- Jane McManus, Reporter & Columnist, espnW.com
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NEW YORK -- John Skelton had a feeling about Arizona, the dry earth and the sunshine. The Fordham quarterback trained in Phoenix to get ready for the NFL Combine, lifting weights and running the 40, and the Cardinals are just about a six-hour drive from his home town of El Paso, Texas.
So when the team picked him up in the fifth round of the NFL draft on Saturday, Skelton said it just felt right.
"It will be nice to get out there," Skelton said.
The 6-foot-5, 243-pound Skelton had to exit the football hotbed he grew up in to get a look in college. None of the teams near where he grew up showed any interest when he was in high school, but Skelton was determined to play.
There was a quality crop of West Texas quarterbacks that year, including Colt McCoy. He wouldn't get in the door at a Tennessee, an Oklahoma or a USC, so Skelton and his uncle Javier Loya, part-owner of the Houston Texans, took a homemade tape to the northeast and tried to find a team that was interested.
That was Fordham. End of list.
Arthur Ave. is a long way from the southernmost U.S. border, but Skelton said he has come to love New York. Loya said the family has been spoiled by the plentiful Italian food, pizza and authentic bagels. The Rams served him well, giving him exposure and a link to football legend Vince Lombardi. And he returned the favor by becoming their first drafted player since 1968. His younger brother Stephen is a junior tight end this year, and could be picked next year.
"We hope to start a trend there," said Loya.
Skelton was concerned on Friday when he saw fellow QBs McCoy and Jimmy Clausen fall down the board. Neither went until the second day of the draft, and McCoy was late in the third round.
"I thought it might have the effect of pushing all the quarterbacks down," Skelton said. "It was a waiting game."
That waiting ended up being worse for his family but, as they watched the ESPN draft day coverage, they watched a sports science segment on Skelton, where his ability to visually lock onto a target and throw a 10-yard pass through a green-lit ring was measured. Turns out, Skelton has pretty extraordinary reflexes and a blazing release reminiscent of some great QBs.
To see his potential quantified was gratifying.
"It was nice to be mentioned with some of the people they named," Skelton said. "I've just got to get out there and prove it."
Now would it be too much to ask for a decent cannoli?