Madden pins down chance at QB

Midshipman spurned offers to wrestle or play defense in pursuit of his goal

November 05, 1999|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Brian Madden was stubborn.

He believed deeply that he could be a college quarterback at the NCAA Division I level; the majority of recruiters believed his future was at free safety or as a wrestler.

"I think I burned a lot of bridges by saying I wanted to play quarterback," said the Navy sophomore, who almost fulfilled coach Charlie Weatherbie's prophecy that he could "make history" by leading the team to victory for the first time in 36 games with Notre Dame.

"Since I was 8 years old, I wanted to be a Division I quarterback and all the people were saying I couldn't do it. I don't want to rub it in their faces, but here I am."

Madden grew up in Lawton, Okla., a hotbed of amateur wrestling, and developed into a state champion at 189 pounds. He appeared to have a bright future in that sport with such notable wrestling schools as Iowa State expressing interest. But he wanted no part of it.

"Those guys are crazy," he said with a smile. "I did it for a long time, pulling weight, not eating, running constantly. Unless you're involved in it, you don't know what it takes. And if you win a match you might get a second [of air time] on TV.

"To me, it was a dying sport, not nearly as rewarding as football for what you have to put into it, that extra five to six hours a day."

But the demands of wrestling -- the mentality, the balance necessary, the physical toughness -- improved his football skills. "I don't think I'd be the player I am without wrestling," said Madden.

Thus reinforced, Madden launched a frustrating quest to find a college which would give him the chance to be a quarterback. He received many inquiries, but nearly everyone wanted him to play defense.

"I even thought about going to junior college," he said. "I felt I deserved an opportunity somewhere. Coach Weatherbie was the only one who thought I could be a quarterback."

The faith has been justified. Madden had a 7-0 record as the JV quarterback last fall and impressed the Navy coaching staff so much last spring that Steve Holley -- who quarterbacked half the 1998 varsity season -- was shifted to slotback.

Weatherbie has contended consistently since the onset of the season that Madden was just as capable of running the Midshipmen as junior Brian Broadwater and the chance to prove it came when Broadwater was sidelined with a fractured clavicle during the homecoming game two weeks ago.

Talk about jumping into the fire: against Notre Dame, which was coming off a bye week and thus was refreshed. In South Bend, Ind., with a hostile crowd of 80,000 and a stadium oozing with tradition. On national television. It was the stage Madden longed for.

"I made some mistakes that were costly [one interception, two lost fumbles], but all in all, I think I played a solid game," said Madden. "You can't turn it over, especially not against a team like Notre Dame. One series, we moved 90 yards without scoring, turning it over deep. But as a whole, I felt I played good enough to win from the quarterback position."

He graded himself a "B." Weatherbie graded him at 65 percent, noting that 70 percent means the game was won.

"Brian played with a lot of confidence," Weatherbie said. "He did pretty well for the first time and did a good job of leading the team. The turnovers were what hurt him. I've said all along he's good enough to be the starter."

Madden said he slept soundly the night before his unveiling, but has been losing sleep lately as the job became his. He figures to be the starter at least until the Army game (and possibly then, too) while Broadwater recovers.

"I've been hearing from people I haven't heard from in years," he said. "And had Brian not gotten hurt, nobody would have heard about me. Hopefully, I can keep playing well."

He and Broadwater have a relationship of friendly competitors, each pushing the other to improve.

"He's made me better and I think it's made him better," said Madden. "We've roomed since I was a frosh."

Madden will now turn his attention to helping rescue what remains of the season, starting tomorrow at Rutgers.

"We have to win the last four," he said. "We've come too close in too many games. We could be 7-1 [instead of 2-6] right now."

Next for Navy

Opponent: Rutgers

Site: Rutgers Stadium, Piscataway, N.J.

When: Tomorrow, noon

Radio: WJFK (1300 AM), WNAV (1430 AM)

Line: Navy by 14

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