Out of Pocket

Martin Ihekemiheke@gmail.com

What do former college quarterbacks like Eric Crouch, Matt Jones, Brian Mitchell and Antwaan Randle El have in common? They were all successful college quarterbacks that played a different position in the National Football League. Some ended up making the transition successfully and some did not. This is probably one of the hardest things to do in sports, let alone football. You spend most of your high school and college career playing quarterback and once you get to the NFL, you have to play a different position because the coach thinks that is what is best for the team. You do not have a lot of time, especially at football’s highest level to adapt to a new position. That is why I commend some of these guys for making this transition.

 

There have been plenty of college quarterbacks in the past that have played a different position in the NFL and have not been successful at all. Eric Crouch, who won the Heisman Trophy in 2001 as the quarterback of the Nebraska Cornhuskers, comes to mind. The St. Louis Rams drafted him in the third round of the 2002 draft as a wide receiver. He wanted to play quarterback in the NFL, but the Rams and the rest of the league viewed him as too short to play the position at six feet tall. Because of injury, Crouch did not even play a game for the Rams and was out of the league by 2006.

 

Another one that comes to mind is Matt Jones, who was a successful quarterback for the Arkansas Razorbacks in the early to mid-2000s. In 2005, the Jacksonville Jaguars drafted Jones as a wide receiver. He had never played receiver before so it was an interesting experiment for the Jaguars. For his first two seasons, he was decent with a combined 77 receptions for 1,075 yards and nine touchdowns (pro-football-reference.com). Then his production dropped off in his third and fourth seasons. He got into trouble with the NFL and was suspended for three games for violating the substance-abuse policy. Shortly after that, he was out of the league because of continued problems with drugs. If not for the drug issues, Jones could have been a productive player in the league but sadly it was not to be the case.

 

When it comes to college quarterbacks who were successful at a different position in the NFL, there are a couple that immediately come to mind. Brian Mitchell was a solid quarterback for the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in the late 1980s. The Washington Redskins drafted him in 1990 where he became a running back and return specialist. He played fourteen seasons in the league for the Redskins, Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants setting records in terms of all-purpose yards. He is the NFL’s second all-time leader in total yardage behind Jerry Rice at 23,330 yards with most of that being kick and punt return yardage (NFL.com). Another one I can think of is Antwaan Randle El who recently retired from the NFL after sitting out last season. He played quarterback for the Indiana Hoosiers in the late 1990s to the early 2000s. The

Pittsburgh Steelers drafted him as a wide receiver in 2002 and he turned out to be a terrific one for them as well as a kickoff and punt returner. He is the only wide receiver in Super Bowl history to throw a touchdown pass. He went on to play four seasons for the Washington Redskins and then returned to the Steelers for one more season. His career stats are 370 receptions for 4,467 yards, 4,316 total return yards and 27 total touchdowns in nine seasons (NFL.com). So again, it is possible to make a nice transition to another position in the NFL, but it is not always the case with every player who does it.

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