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Sunday, July 18, 2004

Possible Redemption for Adrian McPherson?

After having written the post on Art Schlichter, for whom redemption in the professional sports world seems highly unlikely, SportsProf ruminated about another QB who has had mostly downs (and not first downs) in his short-lived post-HS career.  His name:  Adrian McPherson.
Only four years ago, McPherson was a hotshot athlete in Florida who was a huge basketball recruit as well as one of the top football recruits in the country.  He went to Florida State for football and ended up getting into trouble with the law on what publicly is viewed as the most egregious sin a football player can commit:  gambling.   (You may recall the conversation between Caretaker and Paul Crew in the movie "The Longest Yard," where Crew, a former professional QB (played well by Burt Reynolds), asked why some of the inmates hated him so much.  Caretaker replied that most of the people in the prison were in for murder, arson, robbery and that sort of thing.  But then he looked at Crew said, "But you bet on football games.  That's un-American." ).  
In contrast to McPherson, the lengthy rap sheet of U. of Miami linebacker recruit extraordinaire Willie Williams  didn't create as much furor (even though it probably got as much attention) because it almost seems that extra-legal pilfering and violence is expected of gridders who play on the defensive side of the ball.  And Williams has been arrested something like 11 times in his 19 years.  Williams did get his share of publicity, but his rap sheet hasn't cost him the privilege of playing football for the U. of Miami Hurricanes (the original Miami U., in Ohio, to its credit probably wouldn't have let the kid in).   
McPherson, meanwhile, left or was dismissed by Florida State and found himself on trial for gambling charges, and in the summer of 2003 the jury was unable to reach a verdict.   So there he was, twenty years-old, having been accused of an athlete's cardinal sin, and ostensibly without a future.
Until he found Arena Football, the sport that brought you Kurt Warner and his three subsequent amazing years with the St. Louis Rams.  McPherson surfaced this past season with the Indiana Firebirds, and won the Arena League's Rookie of the Year award at age 21.  Click on the Firebirds link and check out McPherson's results.  He had a very good year.
He also seems to be making the most of his second chance, and he may be a candidate for entry into the NFL Draft in 2005.  In the interview with NFL Draft Blitz, McPherson seems humble and focused on becoming a better football player.  At eighteen, he might have been a kid who just couldn't handle all the attention thrust upon him, and, in the process, he made some bad choices that took him away from Florida State and to the Arena League.  
Most guys who play in the Arena League play there because they can't play anywhere else.  They're too something -- too short, too light, too heavy, too slow, too weak -- to get to the next level, and ask any competitive athlete and he or she will tell you that you always want to play against the best competition.  Most, if not all, of the huge talents coming out of college wouldn't even give the Arena League a second thought, for to do so would be to lose that "eye of the tiger" that is so necessary for an elite prospect to get to the pinnacle.  Many respect the effort that the players in the Arena League give, respect the fact that Kurt Warner played in that league and that those guys play for the love of the game under conditions you wouldn't find at Florida State let alone an NFL locker room.  But in the end, the Arena League is for people who you have never heard of and most likely, in our society's obsession with celebrity, never will.
And that may be so.  But for Adrian McPherson, the Arena League is just fine.  And, if he continues to work hard and fulfills the great promise he once showed as a HS senior and even at Florida State, well, he could end up being the next Kurt Warner.  And not the next Art Schlichter.
And the Arena League Alumni Association would have its second great story.