Insider - Reports on the 2001 draft |
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heir to QB throne?
Four – Florida QB Jesse Palmer
The Giants and Jesse Palmer…perfect
When the second day of the draft rolled around, the Giants had the
strong-armed Florida Gator in their crosshairs – and the feeling was mutual.
When Big Blue’s original fourth-round pick arrived at number 125 overall, Jim
Fassel and Ernie Accorsi let out a sigh of relief; and so did Palmer.
“I’m pretty excited,” said the 6-2, 219-pounder. “This is the team I wanted to
get picked by the whole time.”
“He has a lot of talent and a very, very strong
arm,” Accorsi said. “You like to have a young QB who has a chance.”
said that New York showed him the most interest before the Draft, including sending
Offensive Coordinator Sean Payton down to Gainesville to work him out. Palmer
said that Kansas City, Tampa Bay, New England and San Diego were the other clubs
that expressed an interest.
“He did a nice job in my workout when I saw him
down there,” Payton said. “He’s a guy with a bright, good mind. He learns quickly
and he has a strong arm. That’s a great combination. He has good arm strength
and athleticism. Jesse has the stature and the arm to play in this league.
“And he’s a heck of a guy; I think he’ll be a good leader.”
Fassel agrees, both about his personality and his ability. Fassel believed that
after first overall pick Michael Vick, Palmer, “had the most upside of any QB
out there. I like his physical skills, and saw him do enough in college to feel
real good about him. He has a lot of personality.”
And he must have a thick
skin as well, having had to play under Steve Spurrier, notorious for being hard
on quarterbacks, for the last four years. During his first three seasons, Doug
Johnson’s presence limited Palmer’s progress. Then in his senior campaign, Palmer
began the season as the starter, but didn't finish as such, as an ankle injury
knocked him out of the line-up and apparently Spurrier’s favor. Many attribute
Spurrier’s yo-yo treatment of Palmer as the primary reason he dropped into the
staff believes in that if a guy gets hurt and the replacement plays well, he’s
going to leave the new guy in there,” explained Palmer, who suffered an ankle
sprain against Mississippi State, in the process turning over the reins to Rex
Grossman. “But when [Grossman] struggled late in the year, I had to relieve him
a couple of times.”
In all, Palmer played in 27 games for the Gators, starting
on 14 occasions. He finished his collegiate career with 3,755 yards and 31 touchdowns.
He completed 53 percent of his passes (254-479) and ended his career fourth on
Florida’s all-time list with a 133.14 passer rating.
Despite not always seeing eye-to-eye with Spurrier, Palmer has nothing but fond
memories of his time in Gainesville.
“I thought I had a great four years in
Florida,” he said. “I think I learned a lot from Coach Spurrier, both mentally
and physically. I think the things that I have learned are definitely going to
help me in the next couple years in New York.”
While New York is known as a tough town, it was Palmer’s mental and physical toughness
that impressed Accorsi.
“In the Tennessee game [last season], on the road,
with 100,000 people in the stands, he takes them down the field and throws a touchdown
pass, only to have it called back because of a penalty,” Accorsi said. “So on
the next play he comes back and throws another touchdown pass [a three-yard score
with 14 seconds to play]. That’s not easy to do in that environment.”
Nor was landing at the University of Florida after growing up in Canada.
father, Bill, played seven years in the Canadian Football League as a linebacker
and punter. As a result, football – not hockey – was the younger Palmer’s love
from the get-go. However, the Ottawa high school system isn't very strong football-wise,
so Palmer joined the Ottawa/Carlton Major Football League and played club level
football for the Myers Ryders team.
“It’s a really good system that’s a lot
more competitive,” Palmer said.
However, when it came time to consider colleges,
Palmer was in a bit of a bind. Needless to say, the likes of Florida and Florida
State don’t do much of their scouting north of the border. So he put together
a tape of his club level highlights and sent them practically everywhere. But
the first copy went to Spurrier, as Palmer had long wanted to become a Gator.
“I got a call from Coach Spurrier the next week, he wanted to set up a meeting,
an official visit,” Palmer said. “I went down and saw the 1996 national championship
team play, watched some tapes, and they offered me a scholarship.”
Four years later, he wanted the Giants and they accepted him as well. While
Garrett is signed through the 2002 season, his ’02 cap number is well over a million
dollars and the Giants would gladly replace him with a younger, cheaper Palmer.
“He’s ecstatic about becoming a New York Giant,” said Palmer’s agent, Peter Schaffer.
“Remember, it’s not where you get drafted, it’s who drafts you and what you do
when you get there.”
For now, with 28-year-old Kerry Collins and veteran backup
Jason Garrett ahead of him, all Palmer needs to worry about is making progress.
“This is a dream come true for me,” Palmer said. “It’s always good to come
into a situation where the team is already established. I’m going to try to come
in and make a fluid transition. It’s nice to come in without any pressure.
“My job is just to develop, become the best player I can be and let everything
else take care of itself.” “I think he knows that he needs to develop into this
system,” Payton said. “Maybe [Spurrier] was the reason why he was drafted in the
fourth round instead of the first. But at the same time, he handled everything
that went on there well. He responds well to adversity. “He has the talent and
tools to build with.”
“Let’s just hope that they have a very tough decision to make in the next two
years,” Schaffer said.
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