PHILADELPHIA -- When Scott Asman first came to West Chester (Pa.) University in 1987, he wanted to throw footballs, not catch them.
A four-sport athlete at Bensalem (Pa.) High School, he played quarterback, free safety and outside linebacker in football and was a good enough athlete to generate serious interest from such places as Florida State, Penn State, Maryland, Indiana and Wake Forest.
But as things developed, Asman wound up at West Chester. It turned out to be both the worst move and the best move he ever made.
Why the worst? At the time, the Golden Rams already had a guy entrenched at quarterback named Al Niemela, who would go on to set just about every school and Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference passing record. Plus, highly recruited Ed Brown, the current starter, was waiting for his turn.
Why the best? Because Asman, after reluctantly agreeing to switch positions as a freshman, now is a big (6 feet 4, 245 pounds), fast (he runs the 40-yard -- in 4.6 seconds) Division II preseason All-America who has come to be regarded as one of the best tight ends eligible for next year's National Football League draft.
"We've had scouts from all 28 teams out here to watch him," said second-year West Chester head coach Rick Daniels. "He's got the combination of size, soft hands, and he gets downtown. He needs to work on his blocking, but he can do it. He's sort of carefree, but he came back with a different attitude this year. They tell me he'll go in the middle rounds. If he were at a big school, I'm sure he'd be higher. A guy from Buffalo told me he's in their top five.
"I don't know who's ahead of him."
Like most successful athletes, Scott Asman is a competitor. That is why he opted for valor over discretion when the idea of becoming a tight end originally was proposed.
"We wanted to make him a tight end, but he still wanted to go over and work on all that quarterback stuff," said Daniels, then the offensive coordinator at West Chester under Danny Hale. "He was too good to have him sitting around on the bench. We had to use him somewhere. Once he realized the situation, everything was fine. But that first year, geez, it was like pulling teeth."
Asman does not deny that his collegiate career got off to a difficult start.
"I really had intentions of beating [Niemela] out," Asman said. "I was so stuck on that. Finally, I realized I wasn't going to play there, and I hadn't sat in anything since I was, like, 5 years old. Once you're on the bench for a while, you'll go anywhere."
Once accepted, the move was a natural. Going into yesterday's home game against Kutztown, Asman has career totals of 142 receptions, 1,788 yards and 22 touchdowns. He also holds a school record -- tied this season by George Reid -- with four touchdown catches in last November's overtime loss at Portland State in the first round of the NCAA playoffs. This year, despite playing with a jammed finger, he has 46 catches in seven games (he is tied for fourth-best total in the country), 544 yards and seven touchdowns.
"I was surprised because it didn't take me long to get the hang of it," Asman said of his switch from quarterback to tight end. "I mean, I could read coverages. There was a lot of physical work involved. Blocking is tiring, and there's no glory. I had to learn technique and how to get stronger. So, last summer, I worked in a gym at night and got to lift like never before. Chest, my legs, everything. And I can feel it now when I'm driving a guy.
"It used to be, I'd fire out and hit someone, move them a yard or two and then we'd stand still, dead even. Now, sometimes I can just pick them up and throw them."
Wait, there's more. In short-yardage situations, Asman has been paired in the backfield with 235-pound freshman fullback Terry Lindsay. In seven carries, Asman has rushed for 23 yards and two scores.
Shades of William "The Refrigerator" Perry? "I'm more like half a Fridge back there," Asman said.
His favorite player? That would be New York Giants tight end Mark Bavaro.
"He does it all," Asman said. "And if he played for the Eagles, I'd like him even more."
If there is a negative about Asman, it's that he will make only one postseason appearance in front of the pro scouts. West Chester is just 3-4 this season and will not be going to the playoffs for the first time in three years. But Asman has been selected to start in the second annual All-America Classic Jan. 20 in Tallahassee, Fla., a game that pits 40 small-college players against a group from Division I-A. Then again, he doesn't necessarily need the added exposure.
"We have him rated pretty highly," said Dave Razzano, the college scouting assistant for the two-time defending world champion San Francisco 49ers. "You can understand why I don't want to get into specifics, but our regional guy in that area [Jim Gruden] has a lot of good things to say about him.