Today, in the spirit of the NCAA Basketball Tournament, we present Louisville quarterback Adam Froman, a No. 15 seed in the world of the NFL Draft.
Before diving in, full disclosure: Froman is a local hero who attended Maria Carrillo High in Santa Rosa and Santa Rosa Junior College. I covered plenty of Froman’s games at SRJC. He was a local reporter’s dream – a Big Man of Campus who was smart, thoughtful and once sent a hey-thanks-for-that-story e-mail. That doesn’t happen too often. I was smitten. OK, now that we’ve accounted for the inherent hometown bias …
The 6-foot-4, 219-pound Froman wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine. After he missed Louisville final five games this past season with a thigh injury, he was thinking about pursuing his master’s degree (he had a 3.83 GPA) instead of an NFL future.
He was strictly undrafted-free-agent material until Louisville’s pro day last week. He showed off a strong arm while completing 33 of 35 passes. He ran the 40-yard dash in an unofficial time of 4.55 seconds, which would have ranked third among the 17 quarterbacks who ran at the NFL Combine. His times in the three-cone drill (6.6 seconds) and 20-yard shuttle (4.08) would have ranked first (yes, ahead of the physically freakish Cam Newton).
Froman had extensive pro-day interviews with the Falcons and Chiefs. He met more informally with scouts from seven other teams, including the 49ers, who invited him to their local pro day on April 20 in Santa Clara. After his pro day, Wes Bunting of the National Football Post mentioned Froman and Minnesota’s Adam Weber as upwardly-mobile, late-round quarterback prospects. For this newspaper story noting Froman’s appearance on the NFL radar, I called CBS Sports draft analyst Rob Rang, who had heard the name, but hadn’t watched film of Froman.
Rang said he’d check him out and get back to me. He called back in a few hours after watching tape of Louisville’s 20-3 loss to Pittsburgh – a game Froman termed his worst of the season. Two days later, Rang included Froman in his annual diamonds-in-the-rough article.
“The reality is that he’s 6-4, 220,” Rang said. “And with that arm and that athletic ability then, yeah, there’s some tools there to work with.”
It’s hard not to root for Froman (as if you couldn’t tell). Despite his prototypical quarterback build and athleticism, he’s been a perpetual underdog. He didn’t play organized football until his sophomore year of high school and was barely recruited after running Maria Carrillo’s Wing-T offense.
In his first year at SRJC he was back-up behind a future Division I quarterback and played some wide receiver – a position at which he was known as tenacious downfield blocker.
As a sophomore, he threw for 40 touchdowns and 3,888 yards and was named the state’s JC Offensive Player of the Year (my most enduring memory, though, was of a gash he had on his forearm during one game. I can’t adequately describe The Thing he had applied to the injury, which eventually required multiple stitches. But I do recall wondering if he might drop dead, in the fourth quarter, of an infection.)
After his two seasons at SRJC, Froman started 15 games at Louisville. He completed 60.2 percent of his passes with 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions, but missed 10 games over his two seasons with injuries (torn back muscle, oblique, thigh).
Louisville offensive coordinator Mike Sanford compares Froman’s intangibles — leadership, toughness, character, work ethic, intelligence – to a guy named Harbaugh. Sanford was the Chargers wide receivers coach during Jim Harbaugh’s two seasons in San Diego (1999-2000).
“Adam will grind as much or more as Jim Harbaugh,” Sanford said. “… Adam is right up the alley as far as what Jim is looking for in a quarterback.”
Are Harbaugh and the Niners intensely interested? Who knows.
And here’s another stumper: Is it possible to have a draft crush on a player who isn’t guaranteed to be drafted?
I’ll have to ask Mr. Barrows, the arbiter of all draft-crush matters, about the potential legal issues.
In the meantime, anyone else on board?