By Jonathan Okanes
Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009 at 9:38 pm in off-season stuff.
Before the 2007 season began, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. had Nate Longshore rated as the No. 1 junior quarterback in the country. Coming off a terrific 2006 season, Longshore appeared to be on his way to being a very high draft pick some day.
We all know what happened since then: The ankle injury midway through 2007, the inconsistent play that followed, the loss of his starting job for most of last season.
With the NFL Draft coming this weekend, it’s now looking as though Longshore won’t be drafted at all.
Most draft analysts don’t even have Longshore listed as one of the top 25 quarterbacks in the draft. When Kiper was asked on a conference call last week if he thought Longshore would go undrafted, he answered “Yes” without hesitation.
But Longshore is staying positive. Saying that he feels healthy for the first time since that career-altering ankle injury at Oregon in 2007, Longshore is confident he can play in the NFL, even if he has to go the free agent route this fall.
“I’m excited to get the opportunity to go in there and show what I’m capable of,” Longshore said. “As long as I get that chance, I’ll live. I’m just ready to go to work somewhere. I’m looking forward to August, getting into some preseason games and doing what i’m capable of doing when I feel good.”
Longshore says he didn’t feel completely healthy in any game since the middle of the 2007 season. He said the affects of the ankle injury stayed with him for the rest of that year, and then the partially torn pectoral muscle he suffered last spring hindered him for all of 2008.
He says he feels healthy now. He had a good showing at Cal’s Pro Day last month and last week worked out for the 49ers. His agent, Erik Burkhardt, has been sending film to NFL teams of Longshore’s 2006 season, just to illustrate what his client can do when he’s healthy. He’s also juxtaposing that to film of the past two years, to show the difference the injuries made.
Longshore and Burkhardt said they have received increased interest during these last few days before the draft, and Burkhardt believes Longshore will be drafted in the fifth or sixth round. At the very least, Longshore should be in a camp this fall as a free agent.
For more on Longshore, here’s my story that will run in Thursday’s paper.
Some additional points Longshore made during our conversation:
–He said the reason he played better in the first half during games is he was able to get shot up with pain medication before the game, so the injuries didn’t affect him as much. But as the pain medication wore off, his game suffered. He couldn’t get another injection at halftime of games because it wasn’t considered to be medically safe.
–After complaining at the end of the season that he didn’t get a fair chance this season, Longshore said having time to reflect gave him more understanding of Jeff Tedford’s decision-making.
“If you have one guy who is completely healthy and coming on strong and your veteran is a little banged up, you have to do what you feel is best,” Longshore said. “I can’t blame him or be mad at him for that. I don’t fault him for anything. I understand that I wasn’t playing nearly as well as I needed to be effective.”
–Longshore said he never considered shutting it down and trying to get an extra year. He felt he could play through the injuries and give the team a chance to win.
–Longshore said he is throwing the ball right now even better than he did in 2006. He said he worked out with former Cal receiver Lavelle Hawkins the other day and Hawkins told him, “When did you start throwing like this?”
–No matter what happens this weekend, this is an exciting time of Longshore’s life. He and his wife, Rachel, are expecting a baby girl in August.
“There’s a lot going on and I’m definitely enjoying it,” he said. “There are lots of things that make life great, and it’s not always football. But I’m definitely having a good time. Life couldn’t be any better.”
–Longshore said he expects to finish up his American Studies degree this summer.