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The Bo Jackson of College Sports

8-27-09

A Quarterback on the court moves to the turf

Yesterday, in reaction to Brett Favre signing with the Minnesota Vikings, I wrote a story about "un-retirements" in sports, which I suppose are otherwise known as comebacks. When an athlete comes back, generally it's to regain some past glory or pick up where a career that was clearly not over had left off.

College athletes aren't generally known to have comebacks. I don't know if Greg Paulus is un-retiring, but he is certainly making a comeback; one that is highly unusual for someone who is still matriculating.

Paulus, just to get you up to speed, was brought to Duke University four years ago to be Mike Krzyzewski's point guard of the future. He became the point guard of the present, too, assuming the reins almost immediately and leading the ACC in assist in his first season. The next two season he averaged double digits in scoring, and shot 42% from three-point range as a junior, but his assist figures were down and he struggled with a foot injury.

As a senior, he was a virtual non-entity, losing his starting job early and playing only part-time.

He figured he had to make a change. Did he ever.

Paulus announced in May that he was transferring to Syracuse University (+5000 to win the Big East at BetUS), closer to where he grew up, and that he would be playing football, not basketball. Of course, his eligibility had been used up, but he was not grasping at straws with this decision. In fact, he went so far as to get a waiver from the NCAA to compete on the gridiron while he attends Syracuse's acclaimed graduate school of communications (Paulus, who graduated in four years from Duke, was an Academic All-America, by the way).

Don't confuse this with a Michael Jordan-like move to baseball. Paulus happened to be a sensational football player in high school. In fact, he was so good that he was named the Gatorade National High School Player of the Year, as well as Gatorade Male Athlete of the Year. He had the opportunity to go to a number of schools on football scholarship, including Notre Dame, where his presence might have persuaded Jimmy Clausen to go elsewhere.

Maybe he made the wrong choice in the first place.

On Thursday, it was announced by first-year Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone, who badly needs a boost to his offense, that Paulus had won the starting quarterback job over last year's starter, Cameron Dantley, who was just 48% accurate last year, and would be under center when the Orange debuts at home against Minnesota on September 5.

Ironically, Dantley is the son of former Notre Dame and NBA basketball great Adrian Dantley, and chose football over hoops because "Football took a little pressure off me."

The pressure will be on Paulus now, because Syracuse did very little on offense last year. Out of 119 teams competing at the Division I level, the Orange was 114th in total offense, 113th in passing, 108th in scoring and 98th in sacks allowed.

According to one report, some of the other Big East coaches are skeptical about the move, others giddy. One pointed out that it "won't be easy for him to read zones and pick up blitzes." Another said he wished his team was opening up against Syracuse. Still another predicted "spectacular failure" as a result of the decision.

Big Ten coaches will have a great interest as well, since Paulus' first three games will come against that conference - after Minnesota, there is Penn State, then Northwestern. No one should really be that surprised, since Paulus is an overwhelming favorite with the fans and didn't go through all this trouble to sit the bench.

At his best, Paulus will be something of a double threat. He is not unfamiliar with the idea of carrying the football, and in fact seriously explored the possibility of going to Michigan and taking a crack at Rich Rodriguez's spread offense.

So even though his days as a college athlete are supposed to have been a thing of the past, Greg Paulus still gets a chance to "dish" a little more.

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