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The Bradsher Beat
Thursday, May 12, 2005

By Bethany Bradsher

Play-for-pay aspirations die hard


Editor's Note: welcomes Bethany Bradsher to its staff of writers. Bradsher comes to Bonesville highly-recommended and with a portfolio of relevant credentials, including previous experience on the East Carolina beat for other news organizations. This article is the first of what will be a weekly column by Bradsher, in which she will help readers keep tabs on the news and, on occasion, pen her opinions on topics of interest. — Danny Whitford

Jason White’s story is an apt reminder that success in college football doesn’t always translate into NFL glory. And Paul Troth and some of his former East Carolina teammates hope to prove that, on occasion, accomplished pros blossom out of less-than-stellar college careers.

White, the former Oklahoma quarterback and 2003 Heisman Trophy winner, wasn’t selected in April’s NFL draft despite being one of the most decorated athletes in Sooner history. But his professional hopes were revived this week when he signed a two-year contract with the Tennessee Titans.

The predraft knock on White was that he was too small and slow to thrive as an NFL signal-caller. On the other side of the coin is Troth, whose physical attributes could open up post-college opportunities despite his marginal success at ECU and Liberty University.

Troth is 6-foot-5 and 233 pounds.

“I didn’t have a very productive year, but I still felt like I could impress scouts with my size,” Troth said.

Troth, who threw for 2,315 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2002 as the Pirates’ starter, has signed with an agent and recently returned from the Houston Texans’ rookie mini-camp. The Texans declined to sign him, but he has set his sights on a June 4 combine that is used primarily as a talent pool for the Arena Football League and the Canadian Football League.

“I would love to play in the Arena League,” he said.

After transferring to Liberty when then-ECU coach John Thompson gave the starting job to Desmond Robinson for the 2003 season, Troth opened the season at the top of the depth chart but lost the Flames’ starting job after five games. But his confidence was buoyed earlier this year when his agent arranged for him to work out in Tampa with former Buccaneers quarterback Steve DeBerg, who gave Troth a good recommendation to inquirers from the NFL.

Even though NFL rules prohibited Troth from being an official part of the pro workout that was held this winter on the ECU campus, he attended and showed his skills by throwing balls to two of his former teammates who also hope to get a chance at the next level — Art Brown and Marvin Townes.

Brown and Townes, who each compiled 1,000-yard rushing seasons as Pirates but struggled during their senior campaigns, also employed agents but were unhappy with some of the decisions their agents made and are in the process of finding other representation, Troth said.

If individual collegiate performance is often unrelated to future success in the NFL, the same is also true of the team as a whole. The 2003 ECU squad limped to the Pirates’ worst record in decades at 1-11, but four members of the Class of ’03 are currently on active NFL rosters: Brian Rimpf in Baltimore, Damane Duckett with the New York Giants, Terrance Copper in Dallas and Vonta Leach in Green Bay.

A rookie no more, Leach is starting to feel comfortable in chilly Wisconsin: He was activated from the Packers’ practice squad in late November and just finished the first team mini-camp on May 1.

“I felt very comfortable,” Leach said of the minicamp. “I’ve already been around the guys and the coaches, and they know what I can do.”

Both Leach and Rimpf were encouraged by the fact that the coaches didn’t send them on a European vacation this winter. Generally, NFL coaches send players to the NFL Europe as a way to further assess their potential contribution to the team.

George Kokinis, the Ravens’ director of pro personnel, told Rimpf that after the team activated him from the practice squad in mid-December, they saw enough of his skills to convince them to keep him close for the offseason.

“He told me, ‘You got to play enough for us to see some things we like,” said Rimpf, an offensive lineman who will participate in minicamp in early June.

Copper, a wide receiver for the Cowboys, merited a mention from coach Bill Parcells after a recent minicamp practice, when Parcells was asked about the team’s speed at wide receiver. He cited Copper as one of the team’s fastest players at that position.

And Duckett, a defensive tackle for the Giants, started for the first time and played the entire game in New York’s season-ending game against Dallas, recording five tackles and a sack.

Former Pirate running back Leonard Henry played for the hapless Miami Dolphins last season, but he is looking for another team now after being released first by Miami, then by the New York Jets after they invited him to work out with the team.

Wide receiver Richard Alston, who made highlight films last season when he returned an opening kickoff for a touchdown in his first game with the Cleveland Browns, is still on his team’s roster, as are Devone Claybrooks in Dallas, Roderick Coleman in Atlanta and Jeff Blake in Philadelphia.

The most recent ex-Pirate to get his shot at the pros is kicker Kevin Miller, who went from caddying for friend and PGA golfer Will Mackenzie to donning a Berlin Thunder jersey in NFL Europe. The defending World Bowl champions are tied for first place in the league, thanks in part to Miller's foot. ECU's all-time leading career scorer has converted on 11 of 13 field goal attempts through the Thunder's first six games.

Miller was allocated to the development league by the Seattle Seahawks, who will give him a shot at making the team this summer.

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02/23/2007 01:11:20 AM

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