The story that has dominated the past week: Greg Paulus, former Duke point guard, is plotting a return to football. He worked out with the Green Bay Packers, and, for a brief moment, the buzz was that the University of Michigan offered him a scholarship. The Michigan angle is now dead, he's not going there.
Apparently Paulus was a sought-after recruit coming out of high school -- Tom Lemming ranked him the #1 QB in his class. So all these shenanigans aren't completely out of the blue. The blogosphere has gone bananas over this story, but what is Paulus doing?
Let's take a step back. Paulus, who has spent the past four years at Duke playing basketball, is in many ways simply another graduating senior in this crazy economy who doesn't know what he's doing next year. (His bio lists his major as "[P]olitical science with a certificate in markets and management studies." I'm guessing "markets and management studies" isn't quite as marketable this year as it has been previously.) It's pretty obvious after his senior-season demotion to the bench that the NBA is not in his future; I don't know what his options are regarding playing basketball in Europe, which actually pays quite well.
So he's exploring this football thing. The reports could be misleading, but it appears that the Packers approached him. And for some college, I don't really see the downside with letting the kid at least walk-on. You might as well bring in a guy who has some innate talent and let him prove himself. (Most all D-1 walk-ons tend to be "preferred walk-ons" who get recruited by the coaches -- walk-ons are very rarely of the "Rudy" cariety), And all the talk by some Michigan fans that it would somehow scare off their other QBs seems bizarre to me. But I guess that's moot now.
But what's realistic? I think it's rather unlikely that Paulus would get drafted -- at most he could hope to be invited in as a free agent. As a result, if he's serious about football, I'd recommend the option of taking a year in college pursuing an advanced degree while trying to improve as a quarterback, even as a backup. There's always Matt Cassel and Brad Johnson as your models of guys who never started in college. And it's not like Paulus would be brought in on Matt Ryan terms to be the guy right away anyway; he'd be looking at a few years in the pros as a backup as well. (This is why I recommend the opposite for Paulus than I did for Tim Tebow.)
Now this assumes someone wants him. David Cutcliffe, Duke's head football coach, said no way to Paulus as a QB. Yet, again, I don't see the downside with letting him walk on, and many teams have an open scholarship spot or two because of players let go for disciplinary reasons; unless you desperately need it why not?
Part of this deal is, as I said, Paulus is yet another college senior heading into a crazy job market with uncertain employment options. In five years, even if he made the NFL or NBA, he might still be out of work and then what? So another year getting some more job skills, on top of his Duke degree, is a good idea.
But here's a crazy idea: how about he goes to the Arena League for a year or two before trying for the NFL? While the Arena League hasn't done much for a lot of skill players or linemen, it has been of some help to quarterbacks because of the league's frenetic pace that requires accuracy and quick releases, not to mention hordes of passes. The average salary for an Arena League player is about $85,000, and many Arena League players work second jobs or go to school while they play. [Update: Some readers point out that the Arena League is taking next year off due to the economy (yikes). But that still leaves the CFL and some other possibilities.)
So maybe if Paulus can't be the next Tom Brady, maybe he can be the next Kurt Warner? And if that doesn't work out, maybe he'll have a good fallback plan.