Quayle hopes he's relevant Ravens: The tight end from Weber State is learning it's a long pull from last NFL draft pick to making a team, even as a third-stringer.

June 04, 1998|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

Cam Quayle sat by his locker, staring at his first NFL playbook while reciting a hectic schedule that will consume him.

For the next week, Quayle, 25, will continue his crash course as a rookie tight end with the Ravens. He plans to leave the team's two-week minicamp a day early to attend graduation ceremonies at Weber State, where he will receive a bachelor's degree in integrated studies, his first step toward becoming a dentist.

The grueling experience of Quayle's first training camp awaits him next month. But before that, he must face the party of a lifetime.

In 10 days, Quayle will land in Newport Beach, Calif., where an extended celebration will recognize him as Mr. Irrelevant, aka the last player chosen in the 1998 draft. By making him the draft's 241st and final pick, the Ravens thrust Quayle into a unique spotlight.

For six days, he will take part in activities, ranging from a day at Disneyland to a sailing regatta to a golf tournament in which players must sprint from hole to hole. Also included will be a banquet, a barbecue and a trip to see the Anaheim Angels play. The game will be preceded by a tailgate party.

All in the name of a guy who lives just this side of anonymous.

"I'm sure I'm going to squirm a little bit, being the center of attention of so many people, but I'll go with it. No problems," Quayle said. "Everybody likes the underdog, right? I'm the irrelevant dog."

At 6 feet 6, 255 pounds, Quayle is as big as he is affable. And he is used to being the center of attention. The youngest of five brothers who grew up in Ogden, Utah, Quayle always stood out as the tallest kid in the class, a condition that made him feel awkward, even as his natural talent on the football field and on the basketball court made him stand out.

"Hey, I was 6-6, 185 when I was 17. You could thread me through a needle," he said. "Sometimes I had a hard time believing in myself as a kid."

Quayle found contentment exploring the outdoors. A fishing trip here, a hunting trip there. A hike, a rock climb or a mountain bike excursion around Ogden Canyon would occupy him for hours. Good grades were no problem.

Eventually, he recognized he could play football better than most of his teen-age counterparts. And after redshirting as a freshman at Weber State, then leaving for a two-year Mormon church mission, Quayle began showing the kind of speed and pass-catching skills that would bring him to the NFL.

Two unremarkable seasons gave way to a huge junior year in 1996, when Quayle flourished in a pass-happy offense. He caught 62 passes for 658 yards and seven touchdowns, earning Division I-AA honors in the process. Scouts began showing up to watch the Big Sky Conference star.

Although Quayle's production dropped off as a senior last year -- 53 receptions, 479 yards, three scores -- his good hands and ability to run the 40-yard dash in 4.7 seconds kept his football career alive. Had the Ravens not drafted him, Quayle surely would have landed somewhere as a free agent. As a Raven, he will challenge A.J. Ofodile to be No. 3 tight end.

"The first things that stick out are his size and those hands," said Ravens tight ends coach Ken Whisenhunt. "We've got a guy who has a lot of experience catching the ball in a passing offense. He has two seasoned veterans [Eric Green and Brian Kinchen] he can learn from. And he is smart enough [3.61 grade-point average] that he will pick things up quickly and recover from setbacks quickly."

Quayle realizes his shortcomings. He wasn't required to be much of a blocker at Weber State, and that will change drastically at the pro level. He hasn't played much on special teams since his freshman year, and that will change drastically in 1998.

"As a rookie, you've got to be mentally strong. You want to do so well that you have to overcome the fear factor," Green said. "He's a kid who is eager to learn."

Quayle smiled in anticipation of the hard days ahead.

"I was thinking about it on the field today, how much this feels like the step from high school to college," Quayle said. "Things are so much more specific here. You step a certain way in your blocking technique in college, they praise you. Here, you have to step a certain way twice and turn a certain way after that.

"I feel really confident that I'll learn things and get where I have to be. I'm excited, even though I'll probably get knocked down several times on the way there."

Pub Date: 6/04/98

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