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Grossman won't pass up chance

Former UF quarterback wants to show what he can do at the scouting combine.

By RICK STROUD, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 23, 2003

INDIANAPOLIS -- While most of the elite quarterbacks have passed on an invitation to work out at the NFL scouting combine, Rex Grossman will not throw away any chance to show off his arm.

His confidence under pressure is just one of the reasons why the stock of the University of Florida star is rising.

By the time he's done performing for coaches and scouts at the RCA Dome today, Grossman will be no worse than the third-rated quarterback, behind Southern Cal's Carson Palmer and Marshall's Byron Leftwich, and could go within the top 20 picks in the NFL draft.

"I want to throw. That's my specialty. That's what I do," Grossman said. "That's what I'm going to do in the NFL, so I'll give them a chance to see that and get a chance to prove what I can do.

"The only reason that I would've been steered away from it is the timing with receivers. But I think everybody knows the circumstances."

In fact, the only circumstance affecting Grossman's stature in the draft is his height. At 6 feet 1, 218 pounds, some teams are eager to find out how he is able to see over the league's hulking linemen.

"I can see just fine," Grossman said. "We had a pretty tall line. We went 6-7, 6-8, 6-5, 6-5, 6-5 on the offensive line. I could see just fine. I could throw over them just fine. I don't think there's a problem from that standpoint."

Grossman's accomplishments at Florida would seem to support his position. He finished No. 3 on the Gators career list with 9,164 yards passing and 77 touchdowns.

Most of his success came under Steve Spurrier, when he was voted runner-up for the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore. But Grossman's production slumped under coach Ron Zook last season, when the Gators' 8-5 record was their worst in 13 years.

Grossman finished the season as the nation's 65th-rated Division I-A passer with 3,402 yards, 22 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. His Heisman hopes disappeared when he passed for 191 yards and threw two interceptions in a 41-16 loss to Miami. Things got worse for Grossman with four-interception games in losses to Mississippi and LSU.

"I think it helped me a lot as far as having to learn an offense quickly and trying to perform well," Grossman said. "I think we performed pretty well early in the season. I got a good grasp of it, but then things sort of fell apart. I don't blame any of our failures on a new offense or a new staff, just kind of a mediocre season.

"I had some pretty lofty goals, none of them that were really met except for winning the SEC championship. I don't feel like I accomplished everything I wanted to. I really wanted to finish from a competitive standpoint. I wanted to come back and hit those goals I hadn't finished. But I just couldn't pass up this opportunity, the opportunity to play in the NFL."

Now Grossman will be part of perhaps the best quarterback draft class since five were taken in the first round in 1999. In addition to Palmer and Leftwich, Texas' Chris Simms, California's Kyle Boller, Louisville's Dave Ragone, Texas Tech's Kliff Kingsbury and Miami's Ken Dorsey could be high on every draft board.

There also are no shortage of teams that will take a long look at Grossman. The Broncos, who are expected to release Brian Griese in June, Cincinnati, Carolina, Chicago, Arizona, Jacksonville, Baltimore and Green Bay are in the quarterback market.

In fact, Grossman has drawn comparisons at the same point in his career with Brett Favre from former Packers general manager turned consultant Ron Wolfe.

"That would be exciting to sit back and be able to learn from one of the best players that ever played if that situation came about," Grossman said of the chance to play behind Favre. "And when it came time for me to play, hopefully I would've learned a lot and observed how he played.

"I feel that we kind of play a similar way. We both like to take chances. It would be an exciting position to be in, but who knows what's going to happen?"

Grossman plans to be prepared. He has spent much of the past month in Tampa training with former Bucs quarterback Steve DeBerg.

"He's taught me a lot of good footwork techniques," Grossman said. "Basically, how to get rid of the ball faster, not with your upper body but with your feet. He's also taught me how to break down a defense and watch tape and do some little things an 18-year NFL veteran would be able to teach you. I'm still in the maturing process as far as that is concerned."

Coaches already were enamored with Grossman's arm strength, his compact throwing motion and quick release. But last week, he impressed them with his mental makeup.

"I want to meet him a little bit and see what kind of kid he is," Bucs coach Jon Gruden said. "Just learn about some of the off the field things. What kind of charisma he has. Just get to know him. How important this game is to him. I've already seen his stroke. I like the compact throwing motion. He's got a strong arm. I know he's a tough guy. But just to get to know the guy. See how his personality might mesh with our players."

Ravens coach Brian Billick lauded Grossman for his willingness to throw at the combine when so many others chose to wait for private workouts next month.

"He's an impressive young man, and it was good to see a guy who is supposedly at the top of his position putting himself into it like he did today, and that was impressive," Billick said.

"I don't care how good of an evaluator you are or what your track record is, you draft a guy in the first round, it's a crapshoot. It's 50-50, and that's the thing that will concern most teams."

Grossman's workout could remove some of the guesswork. And any invitation to pass the football is one he can't pass up.

"This opportunity is amazing to me," Grossman, 22, said. "I feel like I'm ready, and I'm just excited I even have a chance to play in the NFL. It'd be kind of greedy to pass it up."

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