It follows then, that the more talent a player has, the more risk a team is willing to take with character. So, when the Green Bay Packers selected tight end Andrew Quarless out of Penn State in the fifth round, they're banking on the upside of the nearly 6-foot-5, 254-pounder with the 4.57 40 time and highlight reel of one-handed catches. They're also hoping that the drinking, DUI's and marijuana-related incidents are ancient history.
As a senior, Quarless started 13 games and earned All-Big Ten honorable mention. He ranked third on the Nittany Lions and set the school tight-end season receptions record with 41 grabs. His 536 receiving yards were the most by a Penn State tight end in 33 years. Quarless capped his collegiate career with a 19-17 victory over LSU in the Capital One Bowl, catching a career-high eight passes to become Penn State's career record-holder for receptions by a tight end with 87.
Quarless's size-speed combination poses matchup problems for opposing defenses, and he's got the hands to make teams pay for it when he breaks loose down the seam. More fluid than elusive, he's a long strider who can keep going after the tough grab. He's also greatly improved his blocking. Like many of the tight ends entering the NFL, pass catching is his forte, but he won't be a liability in the running game.
"We like his skill-set," Packers tight ends coach Ben McAdoo said. "He's a long, good-looking athlete. Long arms, big hands, catches it and picks up yards after the catch. He's got some explosiveness to him."
Still, questions about Quarless off-the-field issues overshadowed his play. Maybe some of that was immaturity, considering he was just 17 when he arrived at Penn State. In 2007, he was suspended for the first two games of the season after being cited for underage drinking during the offseason. In March 2008, Quarless was charged with DUI as a minor when the BMW he was driving was pulled over for allegedly running a red light at 2:54 a.m. Quarless was suspended from the program indefinitely for an unspecified violation of team rules. He had to convice coach Joe Paterno not to yank his scholarship.
The following September, Quarless was one of three Penn State players suspended for the team's second game of the season when police found a small amount of marijuana in their apartment. Quarless, who told reporters on Saturday that the marijuana belonged to a teammate, was unable to reclaim his starting job and participated in a career-low 415 plays, finishing the season with only 11 receptions for 117 yards and one touchdown.
Determined to reclaim a promising college career, Quarless gave up drinking after that DUI arrest, participated in a 15-month rehabilitation program and re-focused on his life and gridiron goals. The results were an impressive senior season that showed maturity on the field and off. But it was the off-field questions that dominated the conversations Quarless had with coaches at the NFL Scouting Combine.
"I spoke the truth and spoke from my heart," Quarless said. "I had to let them know that I wasn't that guy that I used to be and that I've grown from those situations. I think everyone was pretty pleased with the way I responded."
McAdoo definitely was, and said Quarless was someone who made poor choices, but was not someone with poor character. Their conversation at the Combine in February convinced him of that.
"He was very forward, he brought the things that happened in his past up to me and we discussed where he was headed personally and off the field," McAdoo said. "We talked about if he would come to Green Bay, the challenges he would have here once you get a little more money in your pocket. I thought he did a nice job. I was impressed with him."
Now Quarless can focus on impressing McAdoo on the field.