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First-round QBs: Buyer beware

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Thursday, April 17, 2003
 
Adamson making a name for himself
By Len Pasquarelli
ESPN.com

One of the most compelling quarterback prospects at this year's combine workouts didn't even attend this year's combine workouts.

Confused by the double-talk? Then consider the case of Rob Adamson, who is confounded, not to mention frustrated, by a double-standard where some quarterbacks with inferior numbers, but from bigger schools, attended the audition to which he wasn't even invited.

"Everybody always says that the most important thing a quarterback can do is win games," said Adamson. "What's the one thing most mentioned about (Miami quarterback Ken) Dorsey? His 38-2 record, right? Well then . . ."

There are, indeed, few quarterback prospects in this draft or any other who have won more games than Adamson, who led Mount Union College, a tiny school in Alliance, Ohio, with a big-time football reputation, to consecutive Division III titles. In his two seasons as a starter, Adamson was 25-0, and his record dating to his days at Manchester High School in Akron is 45-1.

Adamson led the nation in 2002 in touchdown pass percentage, and in yards per attempt, was second in passer rating, completed just over 60 percent of his passes, was sacked only 10 times in two years. He quickly assimilated the sophisticated passing offense of Larry Kehres and, according to the head coach, is a "terrific student" of the game.

The accomplishments, though, weren't enough to get him into the combine.

And so Adamson, who at 6-feet-5 and nearly 220 pounds certainly has the kind of physical stature teams are seeking, went to Indianapolis on his own.

He and agent Ron Todd, known for years for his ability to network and get lesser-known players into NFL training camps, drove to Indianapolis and spent days roaming the corridors of the Indiana Convention Center. A guy who can best virtually any politician in the practiced art of glad-handing, Todd introduced Adamson to coaches and scouts, and made sure that he created a buzz around the young quarterback.

And when Todd wasn't yanking him aside to huddle with a quarterbacks coach, Adamson took the initiative, introducing himself to head coaches and general managers. Among others, he visited with Jon Gruden, Jim Fassel and Brian Billick. And with Jack Del Rio, the first-year Jacksonville coach, and a longtime hero of Adamson's, who used to watch him play linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys, his favorite team.

He spoke at length with Jaguars quarterbacks coach Ken Anderson, the former Cincinnati Bengals star, who fashioned a celebrated career despite playing collegiately at tiny Augustana College.

There were times, standing in a long corridor, when Adamson looked down longingly toward the entrance to the RCA Dome, where the prospects were working out, and mused aloud about how he should be included.

"But just going to the combine, being able to rub shoulders with all those guys and getting my face in front of coaches and general managers, that was a big help," Adamson said last week. "People know who I am now. Maybe they had heard of me but, when you're standing in front of them, it's tough to ignore you. And they saw my size, saw that it was very legitimate, and not some (bogus) media guide numbers. That helped, too, I think."

Just how much it helped remains to be seen but Adamson, who wasn't even a blip just a couple months ago, is now on most teams' radar screens.

The interest, it should be noted, is legitimate. Seventeen franchises have had representatives attend at least one of Adamson's three workouts. Cleveland Browns quarterbacks coach Carl Smith has afforded Adamson considerable individual attention. In a draft that features a notably weak quarterback pool, one where the talent falls off dramatically after the first six prospects, there is a viable chance he will be a late-round selection.

If he isn't chosen, several teams have already identified Adamson as a so-called "priority" free agent. Take it to the bank that Adamson, who plans a round of golf for the first day of the draft and, hopefully, a celebratory round of beers for the second day, will be in an NFL training camp.

The combine interloper, an accidental tourist of sorts at one of the league's premier events, has created enough buzz around himself to earn that shot.

"We've studied him now," said Gruden, "and I'm sure everyone else who met him at the combine has looked at him, too. A big, strapping kid, you know? Has a nice arm. There's something there."

Adamson figures to be a project, a developmental-type player who could perhaps hone his talents in the NFL Europe League, and become a factor on some club's depth chart in a few years. He and Todd have scrutinized the rosters of all 32 teams, with a particular eye on the No. 3 quarterbacks, and concluded Adamson can compete with many of the current players on the lowest rung of the pecking order.

The excitable Adamson has come to grips with the combine snub. He noted that Mount Union star tailback Dan Pugh, the Division III player of the year, and cornerback Chris Kern, his workout buddy who is drawing solid interest from teams, weren't invited, either.

What he most wants to grip, though, is a regulation NFL football in some team's camp this summer.

"Just the chance," Adamson said. "The chance to show people I'm every bit as good as I've told them I can be. That's all I'm asking."

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.