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C-Mac
04-19-2005, 02:36 PM
Is the troubled McPherson really a tall version of Michael Vick?

By JASON COLE

Miami Herald


MIAMI - The investigation of Adrian McPherson on charges of theft and gambling at Florida State in 2002 was known as Operation Coin Flip.

As the NFL considers the supremely talented and troubled young man, who might be the most hotly debated player in the entire draft, the title is more appropriate than ever.

There is the heads side of the coin, as expressed by Steve DeBerg, the former NFL quarterback who played with the likes of John Elway and Joe Montana during his 17-year career. DeBerg coached McPherson for part of one season in the Arena Football League.

"The experience is the only factor he lacks," DeBerg said. "Elway came into the NFL having played a lot in college. Adrian hasn't done that, so he has to learn. But if you're talking about just physical talent, Adrian is as good as anyone I have ever seen.

"He's a tall version of Michael Vick."

When the Vick comparison was relayed to an NFL head coach who primarily handles offense, the coach took it a step further. A big step.

"That's an insult to this kid. This kid has a much better arm than Michael Vick. McPherson can throw," the coach said.

Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden, whose brother Jay coached one season against McPherson in the Arena League, told McPherson he was the best quarterback in this draft when they met at the Senior Bowl in January.

Then there's tails.

"Is it my opinion he's a gambler? It's not opinion. That's what we know," said assistant state attorney Georgia Cappleman, whose attempt to prosecute McPherson in 2003 ended in a deadlocked jury. "He's not only a gambler, he's a crook. Let me put it to you this way: If he was in a room with you, you better watch your wallet."

Or as one NFL general manager said: "I think he might get blackballed."

That might be a stretch, based on favorable comments from coaches such as Baltimore's Brian Billick. But at least four teams have taken McPherson off their draft board completely because of character questions.

It's also telling that Florida State, which has dealt with numerous troubled players, wasted no time in dismissing McPherson. Two other schools declined to let him play after he left FSU.

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THE GAMBLING ISSUE

Gambling, even the allegations of it, is about the only thing that trumps talent in the NFL and other professional sports leagues. The NFL was stung by former quarterback Art Schlicter's gambling problems, shortly after he was a first-round draft pick in 1982. And Pete Rose's managerial career was destroyed and his legacy tarnished - he was banned for life in 1989 and is ineligible to be elected into the Hall of Fame - by his involvement with betting on baseball.

"I think it's pretty fair to say that gambling is at the top of any list you want to put together," Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay said without discussing McPherson specifically.

McPherson pleaded no contest to stealing and forging a check from an auto-parts store in Tallahassee and to misdemeanor online gambling.

According to testimony from at least eight witnesses, McPherson gambled with a bookie and ran up an $8,000 debt in about three months in early 2002. According to the testimony, McPherson, then a redshirt freshman, was gambling from $100 to $1,000 on college basketball games.

Furthermore, Cappleman said McPherson was betting on Florida State football games, although she said records show that he always bet on the Seminoles to win.

McPherson moved to online gambling when the bookie cut him off, according to witness statements. McPherson gambled under a friend's name, telling witnesses he knew he would get in trouble with the NCAA if he was found to have gambled.

McPherson was never charged with gambling with the bookie because the statute of limitations ran out, Cappleman said. Cappleman added that at least one person told her office that McPherson continued to gamble even after he was initially arrested.

According to fellow Florida State students who gave statements to investigators, McPherson used other people's credit cards to buy shoes, clothes and jewelry on at least three occasions. He pleaded no contest to stealing.

He also was accused by students of stealing from them and then denying it when confronted. No charges were ever pursued.

These days, McPherson sums up his experience at Florida State as "a mistake" - even though he had an impressive 12 touchdowns and one interception in part-time duty as a sophomore for the Seminoles in the 2002 season.

He insists he has changed, and at least one NFL executive said the charges and accusations of stealing and lying don't mean much to him.

"What happened at Florida State was three years ago," he said. "It happened. I'm not making any excuse about it, but it's done."

The 22-year-old McPherson, who has admitted to gambling at dog tracks when he was growing up in Bradenton, flatly denies charges that he wagered on football.

"I didn't gamble. It's not going to change. It is what it is. ... I didn't do it," McPherson said. "I'm not going to let gambling ... I'm not going to risk a couple of hundred dollars when I can support myself in a good way. Gambling has never been an issue at all."

Sporting a multicolored "Jesus" wristband on his left arm, McPherson also said, "I wanted to go back to trial," after his first one ended in a hung jury. He said he was convinced by his attorney to accept the no-contest plea.

That sounds brave, but McPherson would have been taking a big risk. The first trial ended with five of six jurors voting to convict him.

McPherson has undergone an independent psychological evaluation to determine if he is or could become addicted to gambling. According to a source familiar with the test, the doctor who evaluated McPherson said there are no problems with addiction.

Meantime, McPherson's qualifications - at least physically - to be an NFL quarterback are stunning. During his personal workout March 29 in Bradenton, he took off his shirt before he ran the 40-yard, revealing a body that would shame Adonis.

The only person to win both Mr. Football and Mr. Basketball in Florida, McPherson ran the 40-yard dash in 4.52 seconds. On grass. That's blazing, making him faster than most of the running backs and wide receivers in any year's draft.

He posted a 40 1/2-inch vertical leap, and blazed through a cone drill in 6.78 seconds.

Then there's the arm.

The release may be a bit different, but it's quick, accentuating a pass that is both powerful and picturesque. McPherson fires everything with a perfect spiral. He capped his 65-throw performance at his March workout by flicking a pass from a standing position more than 70 yards.

"He's a physical freak," agent Leigh Steinberg said in one of the few times that agent-speak wouldn't qualify as hyperbole.

Scouts and coaches who have seen McPherson practically laugh when comparing the physical skills of McPherson with top quarterback prospects Aaron Rodgers of California and Utah's Alex Smith.

"It's not close," one scout said. "Even with the intangible stuff. This kid is very bright. He's not as smart as Smith, but he can pick up anything you need to teach him with no problem."

McPherson's high school football and basketball coaches rave about his talent and talk about what a generally good kid he was in school. The third child of Henrietta and Floyd McPherson, he grew up in a middle-class setting.

But there is a catch.

"It gives me goose bumps just thinking about him playing," said Southeast High football coach and athletic director Paul Maechtle, who during his 20-plus years at the school also has coached Peter Warrick.

"There's nothing he can't do on a field. Nothing. ... He's always polite and he always practiced hard. He was a good teammate."

But "his life was always like a two-minute drill, figuring out what else he could squeeze in," Maechtle added. "If he had five minutes before a meeting and thought he could go to Burger King, he'd try to slide it in."

The morning of McPherson's first game as a senior, he showed up late for school. Maechtle, who was sweating whether to even play him, asked why. McPherson said he went to grab breakfast. Maechtle punished him by making him show up the next morning to help fold the cleaned uniforms.

"He showed up, didn't complain, and we had a wonderful time talking. He was as pleasant as could be. But you just sit there and wonder why he needed to do whatever he did. He always had to be the first guy to have the new Nike shoes or the latest clothes. ... You kept thinking, `Can't you just wait?""

McPherson was just as gifted in basketball.

"His first game as a senior, he plays in the football playoff game one night, goes and gets the Mr. Football award the next day and then comes out and scores 55 the next night. No practice, no drills," Southeast High boys' basketball coach Elliot Washington said.

But "Adrian would just slide by in some things. He's a bright kid, but there was always some issue with the teachers," Washington added.

Henrietta McPherson became well-known in the school for sticking up for her son. That appears to be the case to this day. As Floyd McPherson was being interviewed last month after his son's workout, Henrietta McPherson eventually chimed in on how bad the situation was after the arrest.

"It was not empty, because we always had one another," she said forcefully. "I've always taught my kids, we come together as one in times of trouble and go to the Master, and it comes out great."

To that end, McPherson said he has been extremely forthright with teams. He's fully aware that the NFL's head of security, Milt Ahlerich, is a former FBI agent.

"There are things that I have told teams on a one-on-one basis that nobody else knows," he said. "So it's not like there's anything I'm trying to hide. ... I felt like if I hid anything from the teams, I'm done. For whatever reason, they can understand that I made a mistake three years ago, but I'm being honest about it."

Three executives who spoke with McPherson said they felt he wasn't trying to hide anything from them. Still, the specter of gambling lingers in their mind and McPherson knows it.

"Let me make something understood, gambling in general is a problem," he said. "I played Arena Football last year. I had money, I didn't gamble. I don't want to gamble. I want to play football. That's the bottom line. I never gambled on college sports. I could have been the top pick in this draft.

"I know what it's like to have the talent and make a big mistake."

SBK
04-19-2005, 04:31 PM
Is the troubled McPherson really a tall version of Michael Vick?


Are you saying he has herpes? Viva Ron Mexico! Ole!

Taco John
04-19-2005, 04:33 PM
Damn... somebody already beat me to the punchline on my "insert already tired 'Ron Mexico' take."

Rain Man
04-19-2005, 04:40 PM
You don't want your team's quarterback to be a loose cannon. Let someone else have him.

Sure-Oz
04-19-2005, 04:43 PM
if hes available late take him

ChiefsCountry
04-19-2005, 04:55 PM
Are you saying he has herpes? Viva Ron Mexico! Ole!

Nope its Jon Mexico!

sparkky
04-19-2005, 05:25 PM
I'd burn a 4th rounder on him. Maybe even our third, #99.
I'm not sure Vick would suceed in the arena league if he had to pass consistently. He's never shown me the quick decision making ability it takes in the arena league.

Shag
04-19-2005, 05:54 PM
I'd have no problem seeing the Chiefs use a late round pick on McPherson. We don't really have any QBs for the future, and if this guy hangs around until the 5th or so, I'd say give him a look...