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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Would first-round pick be a reach?
His three-dimensional athleticism could promote ex-FSU quarterback Adrian McPherson into the draft's early rounds. The only question: his baggage.
By ROGER MILLS
Published March 30, 2005
BRADENTON - With an explosive sprint and an outstanding throwing performance, former FSU quarterback Adrian McPherson turned several heads in his pro workout at Bradenton Southeast High School Tuesday.
But when the 21-year-old former high school basketball star jumped a staggering 401/2 inches in the vertical leap - believed one of the highest ever by a quarterback - he may well have propelled himself into the first or second round.
"I think I'm a first-round quarterback, definitely," said McPherson, a chiseled 213 pounds and just under 6 feet 4. "I feel like I bring a lot to the table that nobody else in the draft brings, to be able to run and throw, to have a strong arm and be accurate. You don't find that too much these days. I definitely feel I'm a first-round draft pick."
The intriguing draft prospect certainly helped himself by improving on a combine workout that was hampered by a sore quad. By performing a number of the drills without his shirt, McPherson sent a strong signal that he has an NFL-class body.
"Obviously, his athleticism shows," said Turk Schonert, quarterback coach for the Saints. "He's very athletic, he's got a strong arm and can make all the throws. But what you saw on film and what I saw out here were the touch throws, the accuracy. When you have to take something off because you can't line-drive everything, you have to adjust to your backs and receivers. Those are the kinds of throws I wanted to see. ... I thought he had a great workout."
Because of his well-documented off-the-field problems involving theft and gambling allegations, McPherson's place in the upcoming draft is a bit murky. Agent Leigh Steinberg believes NFL teams can't ignore his ability, including a 4.5-second 40-yard sprint.
"You have an off-the-charts combination of physical skills, like Michael Vick, with the skills of a classic drop-back passer," Steinberg said. "It's a rare combination of physical tools that only comes along every so many years."
There to witness that rare combination were representatives from several teams, including the Dolphins, Jaguars, Bengals, Rams and Eagles. Noticeably absent from the workout were the Bucs.
"No, I'm not (surprised)," Steinberg said."(Some teams) disguise their interest. The results of this workout will be pretty accessible. ... Jon Gruden is a very astute judge of talent."
McPherson said the Bucs absence wasn't an issue.
"My concern is about who's here," he said. "If the Bucs want to find out what happened today, they can find out. It's not about who's not here, but about showing (those here) what I can do."
But McPherson's future will hinge on who is prepared to forgive his past. In the midst of a promising FSU career, McPherson was arrested in November 2002 on charges of theft and gambling.
In July 2003, he pleaded no contest to both charges and was sentenced to community service, 90 days of county work and probation.
"He's very up front about what happened," Schonert said. "In my opinion, it's behind him. He made a mistake. We all make mistakes. But he's moved on. His family has been a strength for him, helping get through those times and moving on to bigger and better things."
Never reluctant to speak about his fall from grace, McPherson faced another barrage of questions and didn't back down on the gambling allegations.
"I didn't do it," he said. "That's why I went to trial. I wanted it to go back to trial. Gambling has never been an issue for me. At all. And I think teams know that and will do their research."
After being booted from FSU, McPherson eventually turned to the Arena League, where he played 14 games for the Indiana Firebirds. He completed 209 of 352 passes for 2,965 yards, with 56 TDs and five interceptions. He had 18 rushing touchdowns.
McPherson is focused on the NFL and said he is confident teams know he won't be a risk.
"My second opportunity is here and I'm going to make the most of it. I've grown and I've matured. My job is to continue to stay focused and be the best that I can be. No matter what anybody says, somebody is going to give me the opportunity.
"I know there's a bunch of people who want to see me fail, but it's not going to happen. I'm going to outwork any and everybody because I know what it's like to be at the bottom. I know what it's like to be the starting quarterback at Florida State.
"I know what it's like for people not to even want to speak to you. It's not going to happen here."