The never-ending tale

The Chargers' need at safety appears to be a never-ending story, the likes of which hasn't been seen since Atreyu rode Falkor the Luckdragon over Fantasia. After signing Bhawoh Jue and Marlon McCree the last two offseasons, respectively, the Chargers will be looking for another safety, one who can make more big plays than did Terrence Kiel in 2006.

Safety is quickly becoming one of the more demanding positions on defense. Once thought of as a place to plug in slow cornerbacks and small linebackers, the position has since evolved with the arrival of uncanny athletes such as Ed Reed, Sean Taylor and Michael Huff. That is why players like Josh Gattis, who has the speed to run with receivers and the size to stop the run, are suddenly in high demand.

Gattis, a 6-foot-1, 213 lb. safety from Wake Forest, had an impressive college career. He moved into the starting line-up as a sophomore in 2004 and totaled 225 tackles, 12 interceptions and four forced fumbles from that point on.

His stellar play earned him numerous accolades. He was selected first-team All-ACC; he was named Honorable mention All-American by Sports Illustrated; and he was on the Jim Thorpe Award watch list. Gattis is grateful for the recognition, having played for a school that didn't always get its fair share of it.

"A lot of times in the past we haven't won a lot of games at Wake Forest so a lot of scouts haven't stopped through," Gattis said. "We just haven't had the notoriety of the some of the other players that have come from big-name schools, yet we compete in one of the toughest conferences – the Atlantic Coast Conference."

Gattis had a chance to prove his worth while in Mobile, Ala. for the Senior Bowl but got only mixed results. He was able to show good speed, anticipation and recognition, but struggled in man-to-man coverage and when asked to defend too much space.

One thing that became obvious as the week wore on is that Gattis relishes his role as the quarterback of the secondary, a must for any successful safety. If that didn't win scouts over, then his attitude no doubt did.

"I'm a high-effort player, regardless of whether it is special teams, defense or any part of the game," Gattis said. "I'm a guy that's going to give it his all. Away from the field, I'm going to represent my team very highly. I'm a guy that will be out in the community, that won't get in trouble – just a clean-cut guy who is will work to be a better person and a better player."

That could mean more high-effort plays (fumble recoveries, tipped passes, etc.) for the Chargers and less "purple drank" for East Texas.

Several teams saw Gattis' potential to contribute both on the field and in the locker room and thus made a point to meet with him during Senior Bowl week. The Chargers, Dolphins, Falcons, Jets and Panthers were among the teams to set up meeting with him.

In fact, San Diego told Gattis it was targeting safeties while in Mobile.

Gattis is unlikely to ever make as many big plays as Ed Reed, but he is equally unlikely to generate as many embarrassing headlines as Kiel (public urination, really?). He is, however, a heady player who is willing to do whatever it takes to help the Chargers take the next step towards a championship season.


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