U-turn

It's what you'd call a love-hate relationship.<p> Antwaan Randle El didn't want to buy into the fact he was a quarterback. In his mind, he is a quarterback.<p>

And it took a while for the reality to sink in: Antwaan Randle El, wide receiver.

"I think I've finally gotten used to it," said the former IU star. "It was just wanting to do it, and I think I've gotten over that. It was definitely tough at first, giving up playing quarterback, but I realized that I've got the skills to play wide receiver.

"It was just a matter of doing it and getting the chances. I just needed to concentrate on it. The confidence level was the biggest thing."

The NFL Draft is this weekend. When you hear Randle El's name, and you will, he won't be listed under quarterback. As much as he'd probably like to believe it, or wanted to a year ago, Randle El's future isn't under center in the NFL. It's split out wide.

And he's ready for it.

"I really have fallen in love with it," Randle El said of playing receiver. "I did exceptionally well in the (NFL) combine, at the Senior Bowl and at the East-West Shrine (game). Now it's just a matter of getting better at it as the days go by."

The Big Ten MVP this past season, Randle El rewrote the Indiana and NCAA record books during his career. He rushed for more than any quarterback in NCAA Division I history (3,895 yards and 44 scores) and in 44 career games passed for 7,469 yards and 42 touchdowns.

He sits at fifth on the NCAA total-yardage list with 11,364, and is the only player in major college football history to record 2,500 total yards in four consecutive seasons.

After starting his senior year at IU as a wide receiver, he was moved back under center to get the ball in his hands more often. Some wonder if Randle El hurt himself by returning to IU for his senior season.

"I didn't think it hurt. I think it helped me," Randle El said. "I honestly don't think I was ready to come out last year as far as going into the NFL and playing receiver. I knew I had to make a switch, but not that soon. I definitely wasn't ready for it.

"(Coming back) gave me the chance to really find a comfort zone in playing wideout."

At the NFL Combine, Randle El said his best time in the 40-yard dash was 4.42 seconds. He said he ran good routes and had no problem catching the ball.

Randle El is projected to go anywhere from the second to fourth round. But according to Pro Football Weekly, Rams GM Charley Armey "absolutely loves him," and St. Louis has the No. 31 pick in the first round.

"He's going to make it as a wideout, no doubt," Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said. "His strength lies in his versatility. He's a fun player and a great guy. I think everybody would love to have him on their roster.

"I think he could go in the third round, but it wouldn't really surprise me if somebody had the conviction to take him at the bottom of the second (round). He's such a wild card, because you don't see a guy like that with his talents."

Adjusting to wide receiver shouldn't be tough for the 5-foot-10, 194-pound Randle El, who could also be used as a punt returner and help out as a third-string or emergency quarterback.

"I've worked with different guys (this off-season). I ran routes and I watched films," he said. "I ran routes like I know I can run them, and that was really something that helped me out. It helped knowing you're not just running those routes, it's a science in running those routes and I learned a whole lot about that.

"Now I love it."


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