Palko Ready For Anything

PITTSBURGH -- Quarterback Tyler Palko has been playing competitive football for more than a decade now, and he probably wouldn't know what to do with himself if it was taken away from him at any time.

That's why Palko spent spring practices with the University of Pittsburgh football team, even though they were his former teammates, and that's why he also has continued to train and work on his game. Palko, like hundreds of other college players every year, taking his game to another level.

Palko hopes to be selected sometime during the annual NFL Draft this weekend. Mock drafts have him waiting throughout Saturday's first three rounds and possibly going Sunday during rounds 4-7.

"I just wanted to be around football, and I just wanted to be around the guys,'' Palko said. "I just wanted to stay in tune with football. I didn't want to go take a vacation and get away from it, and I wanted to help out with the team. I wanted to help coach the guys. They were my friends.

"And it was just natural for me. I haven't been away from football my whole life. It was the first time I've ever been away from it, and I was itching. So, I had to get back into it, and it was good for me. I enjoyed it.''

Palko probably will get into coaching at some point, just like his father, Bob, who heads the West Allegheny High School football program. But Tyler believes he can play a while in the NFL before he changes careers.

Palko worked out for every team at Pitt's Pro Day, the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine except one. The Oakland Raiders, who have the No. 1 pick, are expected to select LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell. He and Notre Dame's Brady Quinn are believed to be first-round choices.

There are others, like BYU's John Beck, Stanford's Trent Edwards, Houston's Kevin Kolb and Michigan State's Drew Stanton. Palko is rated somewhere in the next group even though his college stats are competitive with the best. The 6-foot-1, 224-pound left-hander started for three seasons at Pitt and passed for more than 8,000 yards with 66 touchdowns.

While Palko might not have a rocket arm like Russell or Quinn, he has proven to be just as tough -- a quarterback that hits like a safety when on the run, is how he's been described -- and rates highly in the intangibles. Palko is a tireless worker and extremely coachable, watching countless hours of video to improve his game and being able to manage it as well as any quarterback.

Palko led the nation occasionally last season and finished among the leaders with a quarterback efficiency rating of 163.25. He completed better than 68 percent of his passes for 2,871 yards and 25 touchdowns with just nine interceptions. So, Palko didn't throw too many ill-advised passes.

"We had a bump in the road at Pitt, a little adversity, with a coaching change,'' Palko said. "I didn't plan on it, but I had to adapt. I had to learn another offense, and if I wanted to keep playing I had to get it done. So, that's the way that I approached it.

"I know I needed to come out and have a great senior year and perform in a pro-style offense in order to take myself to the next level and continue to move forward. I don't worry too much about any recognition along the way. I think I've shown that I can win football games at any level.''

Palko was close with former Pitt head coach Walt Harris for years before he even signed with the Panthers, but he later developed a relationship with current Pitt offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh that will help him in the future. Cavanaugh played and coached in the NFL, so he knows what it takes.

"I worked hard to play the way that Matt wanted me to play, and I put all my trust in him,'' Palko said. "He's somebody I trusted and was the best thing that happened to me since I was in college. He took me from somebody who was on pace to be being a pretty good college player, making some crazy plays, to someone who's ready to play at the next level.''

Panther More Top Stories