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Published: Monday, 4/25/2005

Rockets, Falcons find work

BY MARK MONROE
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

As Scott Mruczkowski's hopes of being drafted faded, he spoke on his cell phone with Houston Texans officials trying to negotiate a free-agent contract when his name suddenly appeared on the ESPN draft board.

"We were talking figures and everything and all of the sudden the whole room erupted," said Mruczkowski, a Bowling Green State University offensive lineman who was selected by San Diego in the seventh round of the NFL draft yesterday.

"It was amazing. It's been a real roller coaster ride."

Mruczkowski had spent nearly two entire days watching the draft at a Fricker's restaurant in Bowling Green surrounded by family, friends and a large group of Falcon sfootball players.

"I felt embarrassed because all of these centers went ahead of me," said the 6-foot-4, 321-pound lineman, who was the 242nd pick overall. "To say the least it was nerve-racking. My emotions were up and down."

University of Toledo offensive tackle Nick Kaczur didn't have to wait nearly as long to see his name posted. Kaczur was selected by the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots on the first day of the draft Saturday. Kaczur was the 100th pick overall and the 37th in the third round.

"The Patriots spent a lot of time with him," said Kaczur's agent, Vance Malinovic. "They worked him in Toledo and at the Combine. We're very excited. It's a great organization and he has a chance to go in and contribute right away."

Kaczur is listed at 6-4 1/2 and 303 pounds and speculation is that he will move to guard. According to scouting reports, Kaczur shows good initial quickness off the line, can track down defenders in the secondary, does well on pulls and sweeps and stays under control while heading up field.

Kaczur, who is from Brantford, Ont., was rated as the best prep lineman in Ontario in 1999. After high school, he played in a junior football league in Canada and then worked construction for two years before coming to UT in 2001.

Kaczur, who could not be reached for comment, started 49 games in a row at left offensive tackle for the Rockets and left as the first four-time All-MAC player in Toledo history.

Mruczkowski, who also played offensive guard for two years at BG, said he also thought he would be picked during the first day.

"Then I thought I would go early in the second day. Then that didn't happen and I thought what the heck am I going to do now," he said.

Mruczkowski said some NFL officials told him the reason why he dropped down was because of a groan pull that he suffered a week prior to the Combine in February.

"I'm just glad San Diego turned around and said 'Hey this kid can play,' " he said.

Mruczkowski said his brother Gene, who plays for the New England Patriots, helped him deal with the pressures of the two-day draft.

"He went through the same thing. He blew his knee out and they red flagged both of us," Mruczkowski said. "He helped me through it. It was emotional for both he and I."

Mruczkowski said he had no inclination that he would be playing on the West Coast and thought he was headed to Cincinnati.

"But I'm not going to argue about going to San Diego," he said. "It's the nicest climate in the country."

Mruczkowski set a school record at Bowling Green with starts in 48 consecutive games despite suffering a foot fracture in 2003.

Mruczkowski said he talked to the Chargers' owner, general manager and offensive line coach shortly after the announcement. He said the coaches spoke highly of him and said he had a great opportunity in San Diego.

"He said 'Whatever position we need you to fill, you are our guy,' " Mruczkowski said. "I can play center, guard and tackle. So, that's a huge value."

Mruczkowski is the first Falcons offensive lineman to be drafted since Bob Harris was selected in 1980 and it is the first time that BG has had players drafted in consecutive years since 1990 and 1991. Quarterback Josh Harris was drafted by Baltimore last year.

"Reality hasn't set in yet," Mruczkowski said. "It's unbelievable. I haven't grasped the fact that I'll be playing football for a living.

"It's been one of the most exciting days of my life. I've finally got the job I've always wanted and dreamed of."

Kaczur is the highest draft pick from Toledo since Dan Williams was selected in the first round with the 11th pick by Denver in 1993. Kaczur is only the second player in UT history to be taken in the third round or higher.

Three other Rocket players, Patrick Body, Lance Moore and Kenny Higgins, signed free-agent contracts yesterday.

Moore, a 5-9, 177-pound wide receiver, inked a deal with Cleveland. Moore, who is from Westerville, Ohio, set school records for career receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.

Body, a 6-1, 201-pound free safety, signed with Cincinnati. Kenny Higgins, a 6-1, 185-pound wide receiver, agreed to terms with San Diego.

Contact Mark Monroe at: mmonroe@theblade.com or 419-724-6110.



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