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Archive for Saturday, April 30, 2005

Heisman winner gets shot with K.C.

April 30, 2005

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— This weekend, as his football career makes one last stand, Jason White's humble spirit is doing him a lot more good than his Heisman Trophy.

There he was at the Kansas City Chiefs' rookie camp Friday morning, working in an unfamiliar system, throwing to receivers he barely knew and auditioning for a head coach who publicly had expressed doubts about him.

But at least he was in an NFL setting, working out for NFL coaches.

"I can do the best I can do, and if it ain't good enough to play here, then I don't deserve to play here," said the quarterback, who took Oklahoma to consecutive national-championship games.

"I'm going to give it my best shot and see where it goes from here."

While 14 quarterbacks were taken last weekend in the NFL draft, White, the winner of the 2003 Heisman Trophy, was ignored.

He threw for more yards last year (3,205) than the overall No. 1 pick, Alex Smith (2,952). But nobody even offered to sign him as a rookie free agent.

Was he a has-been at 24? He actually was surprised Kansas City called to invite him to rookie camp.

"Not getting a free-agent deal kind of frustrated me," White said. "I was just looking for an opportunity. The coaches here decided to give me a shot, and I'm grateful."

Asked if this was "one more chapter" in a career that has included reconstructive surgery on both knees, White smiled and said, "Let's hope so."

"I played for two years without them being hurt," he said of his knees. "Everybody I talked to said, 'You might not even pass our physical.' That was disheartening. I had pretty much written off the whole NFL thing."

The other quarterback at the three-day camp did get drafted -- in the seventh round from Tulsa. White and James Kilian, who only had met at various banquets, took turns running plays and taking instruction and straining to make a good impression.

"It's kind of ironic," said Kilian, whose Tulsa career was dwarfed by White and the Sooners. "It's weird how things work out."

How well the quarterbacks did was hard to gauge. Many passes went sailing over, behind and even through the hands of the receivers. But nobody knows the system very well, and mistakes were made on both ends of the passing game.

"If they throw the ball and the receiver turns in the wrong direction, that makes it tough on the quarterbacks," coach Dick Vermeil said. "I thought (White) did fine. They'll get better by Sunday."

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