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Bulls, let McPherson be someone else's risk

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By GARY SHELTON, Times Sports Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times
published December 4, 2002


Be careful, for his arm is a siren's song.

Even after all the trouble, it is possible to remember the easy manner with which he throws, the way the ball flies out of his hand even though you could swear he had simply flicked it forward.

Move slowly, because his feet can charm you.

He does not move around the pocket so much as he flows, moving in and out of the charge as if the defensive linemen are slalom poles. The feet buy time. The feet make plays.

Be strong, because his potential can make you fall in love.

He is not a finished product. At 19, however, he has shown flashes. There is some quarterback to the kid. He can make you see the possibilities.

So lash yourself to the mast, South Florida.

And resist the temptation that is Adrian McPherson.

Already, they have been linked by guesswork and by geography. Soon, McPherson will be looking for a new home. Soon, USF will be looking for a new quarterback. Soon, the matchmakers will work overtime to hook up the banished quarterback and the Bulls.

To some, it will make perfect sense. After all, when McPherson was kicked off the Florida State team last week, it didn't take long until he was talking about USF. After all, USF recruited him out of high school, right? USF is close to his home in Bradenton, right? Barring a bowl game, USF quarterback Marquel Blackwell has completed his eligibility, right?

This time, however, the concept is all wrong.

USF doesn't need to pass with McPherson.

It needs to pass on McPherson.

Obviously, there are things that aren't clear about what McPherson did, or didn't do, at FSU. That's for the court to decide.

There is an old saying, however: Even a knight should beware of a damsel with a backyard full of dragons.

That's McPherson. No matter whom you believe, or what, about his dismissal, the guy has too much baggage to sort through. He has been arrested on charges he took a check. He lied to his coach. He let down his team. He walked out the door with a trail of gambling rumors -- unsubstantiated, it should be said -- behind him.

Just like that, McPherson became a quarterback with more questions than answers. Who is this kid, really? Is he a good guy who did wrong? Or a wrong guy who got caught? Can the coach trust him? Can the team trust him?

Biggest question: Why do the Bulls need to adopt those problems?

In six seasons, USF has grown into a charming, embraceable program. Yes, it has accepted a transfer or two, but it has been careful not to become a way station for the troubled athletes of other programs. There are programs that in their haste to become better will keep their doors open to every rogue with a good 40 time. USF has not done that.

What's that? Second chance? Of course I believe in second chances. The NFL is full of players who needed second chances, and colleges don't always recruit from the church choir. But there are second chances, and there are free refills. Eventually, a program has to draw a line in the dirt.

That said, I'd like to see McPherson bounce back from this. Who wants to see that much potential wasted? I'd like to see him own up to his shortcomings, overcome them and be a success.

But if I were McPherson, I'd want to do it somewhere else, some place where last week's dismissal wasn't front-page news for four straight days. Here, the smallest misstep brings all the other suspicions back to the surface.

If I'm McPherson, I'd play a little traveling music. Do you know the way to San Jose State? Are the bluest skies you've ever seen really in Seattle? Do they really have some crazy little women in Kansas City?

Before any of it happens, McPherson has some explaining to do.

As of now, he's charged with a felony. Until that goes away, it's uncomfortable to think about his next huddle. USF isn't going to take a guy charged with a felony. No one this side of the SEC Western Division is.

Ah, but charges can be negotiated as easily as used car prices. It's easy to imagine McPherson's problems being boiled down to a misdemeanor. It's easy to see McPherson looking for a new team.

Say that happens. Say McPherson calls USF coach Jim Leavitt and says he has his release from FSU and he wants to transfer. Should he hang up? Or should he hold on?

If I'm Leavitt, the first thing I want is to know exactly what happened. The truth. Remember, if you believe McPherson's side of things, you have to believe the police are wrong, Bobby Bowden is lying, McPherson's high school buddy is lying and the guy whose check was taken is lying. It's a grand conspiracy, don't you think?

If I'm Leavitt, I'd like to see McPherson own up to his shortcomings without scattershooting about how everyone let him down. Whatever McPherson thinks he did wrong, I'd like to see a little contrition. I'd like to see a little resolve.

If I'm Leavitt, I'd have to be convinced, utterly convinced, that McPherson was worth the risk. I'd have to see something that tells me I know him, that I can trust him.

Until that happens, all of it, I'd wish McPherson luck.

But I'd wish for it to happen somewhere else.

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