Lalich shook his head, the prospect of not being selected in front of friends and family too “embarrassing” to consider. Besides, the people that once anointed him a star quarterback in Northern Virginia have forgotten about him.
Most of his high school friends have real jobs by now and “go to Happy Hour at 4 every day,” another reminder of the potential Lalich, 24, was supposed to realize years earlier.
“Other people are more embarrassed for me, like, ‘What are you doing? What’s going on with you?’ Or they think I’m just a burnout,” Lalich said. “They don’t know I’m still playing football.”
Seven years after setting Virginia passing records at West Springfield High and “breaking the mold for what a passing quarterback was in this area,” according to former Spartans coach Bill Renner, Lalich is on the verge of becoming the NFL player many predicted he would be long ago.
Rivals.com considered him to be one of the top five signal callers in the country in a class that included future NFL players Cam Newton, Russell Wilson and Tyrod Taylor. Virginia once sent seven coaches just to watch him practice. Lalich eventually became the highest profile recruit of the Al Groh era, spurning schools such as Oklahoma, Michigan and Miami to play for the in-state Cavaliers.
That, though, was only the start of a journey as winding as the Monongahela River that runs along the campus of California University of Pennsylvania, the Division II school where Lalich completed his collegiate career this past fall.
“I just kept learning from mistakes,” Lalich said. “I needed to do that and it helped me out a lot because if they would have just swept it under the rug, I would have probably done something worse in the NFL or later.”
‘Taking his girlfriend away’
While he was starring in high school, Lalich dreamed about college life. He heard stories about the wild parties and booze-filled nights, and when he arrived in Charlottesville as a ballyhooed recruit, it all seemed to come true.
Lalich became the first true freshman quarterback to play at Virginia in 10 years, appearing in eight games while living by the mantra, “At U-Va., the best nights are the weeknights.”
His stature on the field gave him access to any party he wanted. If the offensive line wanted to have “a case race,” he was there. Lalich said he didn’t particularly like the taste of alcohol, but the attention was intoxicating.
“I just had way too much fun with it,” he said. “I was thinking about being a college student more than being a football player. I was just naive. I wanted to do everything and I didn’t understand the magnitude of the situation.”
It caught up with him in July 2008 when Lalich was arrested for underage drinking and put in a pre-conviction program. He started again at quarterback to begin the 2008 season, but his Virginia career would be derailed for good soon thereafter when he admitted to drinking alcohol and violating the terms of his probation in Charlottesville General District court.