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Buffalo quarterback & Randolph grad Drew Willy eager for NFL opportunity

Discussion in 'Draft Zone' started by cowboyjoe, Apr 20, 2009.

  1. cowboyjoe

    cowboyjoe Well-Known Member

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    Buffalo quarterback & Randolph grad Drew Willy eager for NFL opportunity
    by Tom Luicci/The Star-Ledger
    Sunday April 19, 2009, 9:02 PM

    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
    Drew Willy might not be a No. 1 prospect, but he hopes "the draft gods" will give him a shot at the next level.Drew Willy really has no idea at this point when -- or even if -- his name will be called in the NFL Draft. But he's fairly certain that whatever happens, things will somehow work out for him.

    They always have.

    Coming out of Randolph High School, Willy had hopes of playing quarterback in the Big East, but the timing and coaching upheavals worked against him.

    Rutgers offered Jabu Lovelace a scholarship first; Syracuse had just fired coach Paul Pasqualoni; Walt Harris, known for developing quarterbacks, was gone from Pittsburgh, and things didn't work out with Connecticut.

    So the 6-3, 215-pound Willy wound up at Buffalo, a program struggling at the time to make the transition to big-time college circles and one without much of a winning history -- let alone a tradition of producing NFL prospects.

    "It turned out that Buffalo was a great situation for me," said Willy, hopeful of being a second-day selection this coming weekend. "I had a chance to start four straight years. We won the Mid-American Conference championship. We went to a bowl game. It's everything you could have wanted from a college experience."

    Willy made the most of it statistically as well, setting a slew of school records as he finished an impressive senior year that caught the attention of NFL scouts. He was 304-of-468 for 3,304 yards last season with 25 touchdowns and just six interceptions.

    That earned him an invitation to the NFL Scouting Combine.

    "It definitely has been an interesting experience, with all of the training, the Combine, the pro day I did at Buffalo and then working with Jerry Rhome as my quarterback coach for two months," he said, referring to the former NFL quarterback who now tutors prospects. "There's a lot of stuff that goes into the whole process. It's fun, but at the same time you've got to stay focused at all times, work hard and then pray to the draft gods that someone likes something about you and gives you a chance."

    Someone most likely will, because things always work out for Willy.

    At Buffalo, he was pressed into action as a true freshman, seeing his first extensive minutes in a 17-3 home loss to Rutgers in 2005.

    It was after that season that head coach Jim Hofher, the man who recruited Willy and promised to hand the keys to the offense to him, was fired.

    Enter Turner Gill, best known as one of the elite option quarterbacks in college football history during his playing days at Nebraska.

    Willy is a lot of things as a player. Big, knowledgeable, confident and possessing adequate arm strength. He isn't an option quarterback, though. Not even close.

    "Oh I was definitely worried at first," Willy said. "My mother is from Nebraska, so I knew all about Turner Gill. I had heard about him growing up.

    "Obviously I was thinking, 'This might not be the best situation for me now because the option is not my forte.' But Coach Gill came in with the West Coast offense he learned from Bill Callahan and started using that and played to his personnel strengths once he saw what I could do. That's what good coaches do.

    "Now I can't imagine having played in college for another coach. It worked out better than anyone could have hoped."

    Though there are some scouts who question Willy's arm strength, he says that's part of the deal when you become an NFL prospect at draft time: A player's negatives, not his strengths, become magnified.

    "You can't worry about what is being said about you," he said. "I know I've played a full career. I was a four-year starter. I've done well for myself. There's plenty of tape for them to study.

    "Obviously, you want to be aware of the negatives, but you have to have plenty of positives to get to this point as well. There are things I feel I can bring to a team if someone gives me a chance."

    Given that chance, Willy is confident he will make it work. He always has.

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