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Saints Take On a Project in McPherson

Arena Star Pleaded No Contest in '03 To Theft, Gambling

By Leonard Shapiro
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 25, 2005; Page D13

The New Orleans Saints decided yesterday that former Florida State quarterback Adrian McPherson was worth the risk of a fifth-round selection in the draft on a player who pleaded no contest two years ago to misdemeanor theft and gambling charges.

The Saints took McPherson, 22, as the 152nd player overall and the 10th quarterback in the draft. McPherson spent the 2004 season playing in the Arena Football League for the now-defunct Indiana Firebirds and was named the league's rookie of the year.

"I want people to keep their eyes on me because I made a mistake in the past, but that is not who I am," said fifth-round pick Adrian McPherson. (John Harrell -- AP)

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"You can't get around the risk," said Rick Mueller, the Saints' director of player personnel. "Obviously there is some for us. But we're putting him out there, and we're going to give him an opportunity. The upside is tremendous. He has rare talent and athletic ability."

McPherson, listed as 6 feet 3½ and 218 pounds, ran the 40 in 4.51 on a grass field and impressed league scouts with a strong arm and his ability to throw with great accuracy on the move. The Saints' starting quarterback, former Virginia star Aaron Brooks, has a similar style, but Mueller said for now McPherson will be trying to make the roster and is considered a project.

"I thought eventually someone would give me a chance," McPherson said. "When I worked out for my pro day, Rick Mueller told my mom they would take me, and if they did, did she think I could handle everything that comes along with it. I kept the faith, and I thought he would keep his word, and he did.

"I want people to keep their eyes on me because I made a mistake in the past, but that is not who I am. I just want to play football. I've been given the opportunity to seize the goal, a lifelong goal, and I'm just excited about it."

Mueller said he and other Saints assistants did considerable research on McPherson. He said he spent a lot of time speaking with his parents, his high school coaches and former coaches and teammates at Florida State, many of whom thought McPherson would have developed into a first-round pick if he had remained in school and played four years for the Seminoles.

"I think he's going to come in with a little chip on his shoulder, something to prove," Mueller said. "We kind of like the attitude of guys like that. All the people we talked to say he's done nothing wrong the last two years to think it's a habit or a problem. It's up to him now."

Said McPherson: "I'm a lot different now. Back then, I was just so used to people doing everything for me and I just figured I could do whatever I wanted to do. Now I just think everything out. I think about the consequences. It has matured me and made me a better person."

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