Snapshot: Mike Potts

As we do every year at this time, presents its Snapshot series of features on the Steelers' rookies. Today: Mike Potts.

His coaches always told Mike Potts that, while he may be a backup, he's just what the NFL was looking for in a quarterback.

We can assume those coaches told Mike Tomlin the same thing, because the coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers brought Potts into the fold.

"I'm sure he heard from some of his former teammates and coaches at William & Mary," said Potts. "The staff at William & Mary has been there for almost 30 years, and most of the staff were there when Coach Tomlin was there. He still has a lot of connections around there."

Potts is a 6-3½, 226-pounder with a strong arm. But while he started the first six games of his sophomore season, he saw only spot duty the rest of his career at Tomlin's alma mater, The College of William & Mary.

"I was kind of a pocket passer and we had another guy who was a scrambler," Potts said. "My coach tends to like the more -- I guess you could say -- college-style quarterbacks. Everybody's kind of going to the spread offense these days. We just ended up splitting time my last three years. It wasn't the best possible situation, but it turned out for the best."

Potts opened his career in 2005 by putting his Division I-AA squad ahead of Division I Marshall with two third-quarter touchdown passes. Marshall came back for a 36-24 win, but Potts appeared to be on the verge of a productive collegiate career. In fact, he quarterbacked the team to a 4-2 record before being replaced, and the Tribe finished 5-6.

William & Mary went 3-8 in 2006 and 4-7 in 2007 as Potts saw only spot duty. He finished his career with a completion percentage of 58.5, a 20-9 TD-INT ratio, and an 11.7 yards-per-completion average. Yet, it wasn't good enough.

"I never thought about transferring at all," he said. "I always knew in my heart that I had the ability to not only start in college, but I always thought I had the ability to play in the NFL. My coaches always told me I had the ability, that I had prototypical NFL size, arm strength, etc., and they told me not to get down. So I tried to keep positive, keep my head up at all times, and I never broke any ties with the coaching staff or had any bad blood going on. It was a bad situation for me to be in, especially with the other guy being a year younger than me. It kind of became a rebuilding phase. They kind of wanted to get younger and it was a situation I got caught in."

But, as he said, it turned out for the best. Potts spent the spring back in his hometown of Pittsburgh learning along with draft pick Dennis Dixon behind Ben Roethlisberger and Charlie Batch.

"I didn't get many reps, so I tried to take advantage of the reps I got," he said. "While Ben and Charlie were in there, I tried to take mental reps. I think I picked up the offense pretty well. I just need to iron out some of the intricacies and some of the finer points. I think I have a pretty good basic knowledge of everything. I've been studying hard and watching film. Once training camp comes around I think I'll be ready to go."

Potts' parents graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in the South Hills area of Pittsburgh. His father, a safety engineer, moved the family to Cape Canaveral in Florida when Mike was 3, and then to Oklahoma and finally Delaware when Mike was in third grade. But because his large extended family remained in Pittsburgh, Mike visited often and became a rabid Steelers fan.

Potts wasn't highly recruited coming out of Middletown (Del.) High School, but his mother – much like young Mike Tomlin's mother – became excited about the offer from William & Mary because of its academic reputation. Potts studied kinesiology, but – like Tomlin – hopes to remain in football.

"That's where my heart is," Potts said. "I don't know whether it would be coaching or scouting, but anything with football is probably where I'll end up. It's been my life for as long as I can remember. I can't imagine working in any other field."

The school has become something of a Cradle of Coaches. Tomlin, Dan Henning, Marv Levy, Mark Duffner, Rip Scherer and Hal Hunter are just some of the names (and let's get Pinball Clemons of the CFL in there) who've been trained at William & Mary.

"They have a new football building at William & Mary. It's a pretty nice facility," Potts said. "They were dedicating the building and they had a lot of former coaches come back. I knew about the tradition, but it kind of brings it to light when you see it all come together. They had Marv Levy and Ralph Friedgen there. Frank Beamer was there. Coach Tomlin was there. Lou Holtz also coached there. There've been a lot of good coaches come out of that program."

What had Potts heard about Tomlin while playing under longtime Tribe coach Jimmye Laycock?

"I never heard anything but positives about him, and it's proven to be true," Potts said. "Everybody said he's a players' coach, a real down-to-earth guy who's really approachable, and at the same time he knows when to get down to business. Everything that they told me about him has proven to be true, from what I've seen."

Potts said the Steelers called him in the sixth round of the draft to feel him out for post-draft free agency. He also heard that the Colts were interested.

"My agent was excited to have the Steelers' offer on the table and didn't really want to let someone else take that offer," Potts said. "So we were pretty much locked onto that as soon as they called. As soon as that last pick in the seventh round popped on the screen, my phone rang and they asked if I still wanted to sign. I said yeah. I couldn't wait for another one.

"Also, being from Pittsburgh, having family there and growing up a Steelers fan didn't hurt, so it was just kind of crazy how it worked out. I got a chance to go to a couple Steelers games when I was younger and I've loved them ever since."

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