Panthers select Heisman Trophy winner in fourth round
Updated: Monday April 23, 2001 1:56 AM
NEW YORK (AP) -- This time Chris Weinke was the Heisman Trophy quarterback who waited.
The Florida State QB was chosen by the Carolina Panthers with the 11th pick of the fourth round on Sunday and instantly became the oldest QB on the Panthers' roster.
"I kind of figured that would be the case with a lot of different teams. That's just part of it," said Weinke, the former minor league baseball player who will turn 29 in July. "I feel I did the things necessary to be successful at this level."
That he did, leading Florida State to the national championship in 1999, then to the title game last season, where the Seminoles lost to Oklahoma. But Weinke won the Heisman over the Sooners' QB, Josh Heupel.
Heupel had to wait even longer to be picked, going to Miami in the sixth round, the 177th overall choice and the 11th quarterback taken. Among those chosen before Heupel: Oregon's A.J. Feeley, who was 5-for-13 for 87 yards in the only game he played last season.
Being selected on the second day is the rule for Heisman-winning quarterbacks.
The last QB to win the award as college football's best player was Danny Wuerffel of Florida. He was the first pick of the fourth round by New Orleans in 1997 and is barely hanging on in the NFL.
Charlie Ward (1993) wasn't drafted and plays for the NBA's New York Knicks, and Gino Torretta (1992) and Ty Detmer (1990) have never been more than backups.
The last Heisman-winning quarterback taken high was Andre Ware, the 1989 winner who was chosen seventh overall by Detroit in 1990 but a bust in the NFL.
And you have to go back to 1986 for the last Heisman-winning QB to have a successful NFL career: Vinny Testaverde, chosen No. 1 overall by Tampa Bay in 1986. It can be argued that Testaverde, who didn't blossom until he left Tampa, has never fulfilled the superstar expectations some had when he left Miami.
The raps on Weinke were his age -- he didn't enter Florida State until giving up baseball age 25 -- and his inconsistency. But he improved his standing by staying in college for his senior year.
"I'm as prepared as any quarterback in this draft to make the adjustments we need to make at this level," he said. "Because of my age and maturity, my learning curve is a little bit smaller than maybe a 20- or 21- year old kid. My job will be to come in and study and learn the offense and try to help this team win."
He might get a chance early.
With the release of Steve Beuerlein, Jeff Lewis is the nominal starting quarterback but he's spent most of his career as a third-stringer. That's more than Michael Vick, the No. 1 overall pick can say -- he will back up Chris Chandler in Atlanta.
Sunday's quarterbacks were a mixed bag. After Weinke, Sage Rosenfels of Iowa State went to Washington and Jesse Palmer of Florida to the New York Giants on the fourth round.
"This is where I wanted to go," said Palmer, a Canadian who was yanked in and out of the lineup by Steve Spurrier in college but was very impressive in offseason workouts and all-star games.
Mike McMahon of Rutgers went to Detroit in the fifth round and Feeley went to Philadelphia, largely on the strength of one good game against Washington in 1999. Another former baseball player, Josh Booty of LSU, went to Seattle in the sixth round before Heupel was chosen by Miami, where he will begin behind Jay Fiedler and newly signed Ray Lucas.
The rest of the second day was devoted to long shots and small school players. The first three players of the fourth round were all from South Florida. One of them was Bill Gramatica, brother of Tampa Bay kicker Martin Gramatica, who was taken by Arizona as the first kicker chosen.
On the seventh round, Chicago took Olympic sprinter John Capel, who played very little at Florida. He was favored in the Olympic 200-meter final but got a late start and finished eighth.
In the seventh and final round came a mini-run on Ivy Leaguers -- offensive tackle Dennis Norman of Princeton by Seattle, and two Yale Players were picked: defensive back Than Merrill to Tampa Bay and tight end Eric Johnson to San Francisco. Jacksonville used a compensatory pick in the seventh round on Randy Chevrier, a defensive tackle from McGill University in Montreal.
The last player chosen, by Arizona, was tight end Tevita Ofahengaue of Brigham Young. He will be honored as this year's "Mr. Irrelevant."