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Sunday, February 26, 2012 - Page updated at 08:00 p.m.
Kellen Moore is a little guy and a big winner but can he make it in NFL?
By Danny O'Neil
Seattle Times staff reporter
INDIANAPOLIS — It's tempting to feel sorry for the little guy.
It just doesn't seem fair that given all the statistics Kellen Moore piled up at Boise State, the number people can't seem to get over at the league's annual scouting combine is his height.
Those 50 games he won as a starter were the most of any quarterback in college history, and his 142 touchdown passes rank No. 2, but any evaluation about his pro potential is couched on the fact that Moore is only six inches taller than that famous 5-foot-6 Notre Dame walk-on, Rudy. Which makes him what, a 6-foot-nothing?
But Moore is OK with that. Really. So save your pity and spare him your questions about frustration because he's not standing up at the scouting combine and wondering why someone might be overlooking him.
"I'm not shocked," he said. "It's not the first time I've ever heard something like this. So I've gone through this process, had some similar situations."
Yes, he has. Coming out of Prosser High School, Moore wasn't offered a scholarship by Washington State as Timm Rosenbach, then the Cougars quarterbacks coach, told Moore the Cougars were looking for someone taller.
He hasn't grown any taller since then. In fact, he hasn't grown since he was in the ninth grade. The fact that everyone is making such a big deal over how small he is underscores one of the fundamental contradictions of draft evaluation: NFL teams measure a player's capability to play professional football by scrutinizing things other than how they play football. In the case of Moore, that presents a particular challenge. How do you reconcile his eye-popping productivity in college with the reality that he's shorter than the prototypical NFL quarterback?
"Thirty-two teams are battling that right now," 49ers GM Trent Baalke said. "What's the most important thing for a quarterback to do? It's to win games, to find a way to win, to lead their team to victory. Kellen has done it better than any quarterback in the history of college football. So that has to mean something. What it means to me is going to be different than what it means to the next person."
This is how the other half of the quarterback class lives in a draft headlined by Stanford's Andrew Luck and Baylor's Robert Griffin III. While those two players may be the first two picked, players like Moore and Russell Wilson of Wisconsin — who's even shorter — might not get picked until the back half of the seven-round draft.
It is impossible not to be impressed by Moore's success. He's the coach's son who was deemed too short for the Pac-10 and then went and threw Boise State into the upper echelon of college football while wearing Justin Bieber's haircut.
"His football intelligence is off the charts," Seahawks general manager John Schneider said. "His instincts are off the charts."
But for all the praise being piled up on Moore's doorstep, there's the reality that any 6-foot quarterback is kind of a longshot in the NFL. As exceptional as Drew Brees may be, the general rule is that it's much harder — and rarer — for a quarterback of that size to succeed.
"The defensive linemen are all 6-foot-4 now," said Ruston Webster, Tennessee's general manager. "It gets harder for him to see in the pocket, but obviously there are special cases that are able to find themselves a throwing lane, and maybe he's one of those guys."
Drafting a player is like making a bet. Teams aren't just considering how good a player might be, but trying to gauge the likelihood of that success, and there are some who don't consider Moore draftable because of his height.
"Maybe some people turn away, and that's fine," Moore said. "You're going to get plenty of opportunities, and it's up to you after that."
The NFL is a big-boy business. There's not much room for hurt feelings and bruised egos, so don't go worrying about the little guy with the big dreams and certainly don't feel sorry for him. He has been sold short before, and all he did was go win more games than any other quarterback in college football history.
"I'm fine," Moore said. "It is what it is, bottom line. At the end of the day you're going to get an opportunity to play football. Once you get that opportunity, essentially it's up to you."
Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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