The Rattay Interview, Part II

In the second installment of a three-part interview with SFI, 49ers quarterback Tim Rattay discusses several topics: Wether he considers himself a natural or self-made quarterback; his late start at the position; his record-setting exploits in high school, junior college and college; the joy of smashing NCAA records and scoring big upsets during three seasons at Louisiana Tech; and the frustration of waiting until the seventh round to have his name called in the 2000 NFL draft.

Q: Do you consider yourself a natural quarterback or a self-made quarterback?

Rattay: I think everyone needs coaching. Obviously, what my dad did when I was in high school and junior high, he kind of taught me how to be a football player, not just a quarterback, because you need that. You've got to be able to take a hit, you've got to be able to stand there and throw the ball when a guy's running at you and he's going to knock your head off. And then it comes along with being tough in a game like, when things go bad, not just shutting it down. And then I kind of learned how to be a quarterback from coaches in college. I'm still learning now. It's not something where I was extremely polished as a quarterback (entering the NFL). And I've gotten a ton better from my rookie year to now - a lot better. And I'll still keep learning to be a quarterback. But I think the initial foundation my dad gave me just to be a football player, that's helped me a lot, you know?

Q: You didn't become a starting quarterback in high school until your senior season, but you set several Arizona state passing records that year. Was that year one of the biggest leaps in your development as a quarterback?

Rattay: Well, I don't know good a quarterback I really was (as a high school senior). I played at a 2-A school, and 5-A was the really good competition (large schools), and it slowly got worse talent-wise. There wasn't a lot of talent at the 2-A level. The records might have been inflated because of the competition.

Q: So where did you see a big jump in your development?

Rattay: I think the biggest increase was when I was at Louisiana Tech with (coach) Gary Crowton. He really helped me, quarterback-wise, to get me where I was going.

Q: What about your one season at Scottsdale Community College in Arizona, where you led the nation with 3,526 yards passing and 28 touchdowns?

Rattay: But I through an awful lot of (interceptions) there. So I was still learning and stuff like that. I was just really raw there. Louisiana Tech was the only Division I (scholarship) offer I got. It was either there or go back to (junior college) for another year.

Q: Obviously, you made the right choice by going to Louisiana Tech, where you had three prolific seasons as a starter and finished your career second in NCAA history in passing yards and total offense. What do your remember most about your record-smashing years there?

Rattay: It was fun just because we threw the ball a ton. There was a couple of games where we went in to try to break the record for most passes in a game. So that's fun, because we went into games knowing we were going to throw the ball. So, it was kind of like, 'The quarterback and receivers better have good games, or we're not going to win the game.' So it was fun, because you knew you were going to throw it 40, 50 times, and if you played well you win, and if you didn't you lost. So it was fun, and it was a lot of repetitions, which really helped. We were throwing that much in games, so that means in practice all we were doing was throwing, too. That helped getting those kind of reps like that and playing big schools and trying to beat them. We beat Alabama twice, including a year they won the (Southeastern Conference). Those were some fun times that you don't forget.

Q: Is that where you matured as a quarterback?

Rattay: I'm still trying to get better every year. There was a big jump from my sophomore year in college to my senior year in college. I'm still getting there.

Q: After such a spectacular career in college, at the end of which you had established yourself as a legitimate NFL prospect, how disappointing was it to have to wait until the seventh round of the draft to hear your name called?

Rattay: It was frustrating. As a first timer in that whole deal you're not sure how that thing really works. People rate you high, but you don't really know. It was a situation where I went into the Senior Bowl, and a day before I left for (the week of practices leading to the game) I got sick and lost something like 15 pounds. Instead of sitting out, like people were telling me to do, I didn't want to sit out so I went out and practiced and I was terrible. I knew I was. I was sick. And for a small-school guy that didn't get a lot of notoriety playing, the Senior Bowl was the only bowl game I played in and I got a lot of bad revues. That's probably part of the reason I slipped in the draft.

TOMORROW: Rattay talks about the importance of the early tutelage he received after joining the Niners; his low-key character and humble nature; the temperament he takes with him onto the field; and whether he's ready to become household name as a starting NFL quarterback.

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