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HomeSportsUT
Published: Friday, 4/28/2006

Professional address: UT's Gradkowski wonders where

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Record-setting Rockets quarterback Bruce Gradkowski works out at the UPMC Sports Complex in his hometown of Pittsburgh, preparing to take his game to the next level. Record-setting Rockets quarterback Bruce Gradkowski works out at the UPMC Sports Complex in his hometown of Pittsburgh, preparing to take his game to the next level.
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Since the clock expired on the University of Toledo's win in the GMAC Bowl last December, the result of a five-touchdown passing performance by Bruce Gradkowski, another clock has been ticking for the quarterback.

Now it's down to a precious few hours.

The NFL draft is this weekend and Gradkowski's future is on the line.

He claims not to be the least bit nervous.

"Anxious and excited, yes," he said. "But not nervous. I'm more excited about when I'll go [in the draft], which team I'll go to, and where I'll be living. It's definitely an exciting time."

Gradkowski spoke via telephone from Madison, Wis., where he is spending much of this pre-draft week working out with University of Wisconsin receiver Jonathan Orr.

When asked what routine they follow, Gradkowski laughed and said, "I throw, he catches. We met at an all-star game and then worked out together before the [NFL] Combine. We ended up with the same agent."

That agent, Pittsburgh-based Ralph Cindrich, has kept Gradkowski's eyes on the prize since his graduation in December. The ex-UT quarterback has worked out regularly with Cindrich's stable of draft contestants - Michigan guard Matt Lentz is one of them - at the UPMC Sports Complex on the south side of Pittsburgh, Gradkowski's hometown.

"Bruce has done everything possible to position himself in the best light," Cindrich said. "Everything is conjecture until it happens, and with the NFL draft you learn to expect the unexpected, but by most all accounts he's in the top 10 among quarterbacks."

It is expected, if not all but assured, that Southern Cal's Matt Leinart, Texas' Vince Young and Vanderbilt's Jay Cutler will be the first three quarterbacks to go in the draft.

After that it's anybody's guess. Gradkowski is in a group that includes Charlie White-hurst of Clemson, Brodie Croyle of Alabama, Omar Jacobs of Bowling Green and a smattering of others.

Most draft analysts expect Gradkowski to be a second-day pick, probably in the fourth or fifth round. It is an evaluation that Cindrich considers reason-able. But the 6-foot-1 1/2, 217-pound quarterback hasn't given up hopes of being selected during the first three rounds on Saturday.

"That's just the way I am," Gradkowski said. "I always think positive. You never know what's going to happen, but I know that the teams that came to my pro day or had me do private workouts seemed to like what they saw."

Gradkowski puts the Jacksonville Jaguars at the top of that list and adds that Philadelphia, Cincinnati and St. Louis are other teams that have shown considerable interest.

"But, heck, you can end up being drafted by a team that never even talked to you," added Gradkowski, who left UT with 19 career passing records and as the most accurate quarterback in NCAA Division I-A history with a .682 career completion percentage.

Cindrich and Gradkowski think the perfect scenario would develop around an early run on the top three quarterbacks.

"If the top three are off the board early, then it might create a run for the rest of the teams that have a need at quarterback," Cindrich said. "I've often seen that kind of thing vault a guy who's considered a second-day pick into the first three rounds."

Gradkowski's stock seemed to rise at the NFL Combine, where he posted the sixth-fastest 40 time (4.59 seconds) among quarterbacks and scored high in both the shuttle and cone drills.

But there are still questions about Gradkowski among draft analysts and there are some who question whether he can hone his skills enough over time to become a starter in the NFL.

Glean over those scouting reports and you'll find plenty of positives - hard-working intelligent great in short field solid footwork and mechanics good decision-making versatile run-pass talent athletic ability allows him to buy time for receivers great leader who commands the huddle.

But the questions are the same ones that limited Gradkowski's college scholarship offers and prevented him from an opportunity to play at a level higher than the Mid-American Conference - lacks arm strength and under-throws deep receivers can't put enough zip on the out pass played too much from the shotgun formation concern about size.

"I think I've done everything in my power, both on the field and in the weight room, to answer all those questions," Gradkowski said. "Now I'm waiting to find out which team is least concerned with that stuff."

Gradkowski will spend the weekend with his family in Pittsburgh, but hopes it will be a fairly small gathering.

"I have a big family," he said. "I mean, it's huge. I told my mom not to invite everybody over, though, because there's always uncertainty and I'd hate to have everybody around on Saturday and have nothing happen.

"I got requests from some Pittsburgh TV stations to be at the house all day, too, and I told them to wait until after it's all over. I'm trying to keep it low-key."



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