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Redskins Are Courting Non-Football Players

Basketball Stars Getting a Look

By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 16, 2005; Page D03

Rod Flowers has not played organized football since middle school and never considered a future in the NFL. But when the Washington Redskins' scouting department contacted him last week, the Tennessee State basketball star listened.

Flowers, who completed his senior season and is working toward a master's degree, has the size, weight and athletic ability NFL scouts covet, and although the Redskins do not plan to audition him, the mere fact he was considered is an indication of how far NFL teams are going to unearth talent.

After discovering Tennessee State basketball player Ron Flowers on the "wire," the Redskins inquired about his interest in playing tight end. (AP)

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The rise of Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates in San Diego has prompted other clubs to pursue alternative sources for players. Gates did not play football in college but caught the Chargers' attention with his performance on the basketball court at Kent State. At 6 feet 4, 260 pounds, he had the body to be a bruising tight end. Gates was signed as an undrafted free agent in May 2003 and set the NFL record for touchdowns by a tight end in 2004.

Flowers, who attended a high school that restricted students from playing football and basketball, has a 6-9, 240-pound frame, and is a former Parade High School all-American basketball player. Tennessee State basketball coach Cy Alexander said he was contacted by a Redskins scout last week to gather information about Flowers and assess if he would be interested in playing tight end. Alexander called Flowers, who was intrigued by the possibility, and phoned the Redskins to tell them so.

After holding internal discussions, Vinny Cerrato, Washington's vice president of football operations, said the team has decided not to bring Flowers to Redskins Park for a workout.

Alexander said that Flowers was willing to put an offer he has to play professional basketball in Spain on hold to come to Washington, and was surprised by the phone call. "The scout said they were looking for the next Gates, who played basketball at Kent State," Alexander said. "He asked me about Rod's background and what kind of athlete he was and said they were interested because of his height and weight. Rod is a pretty special athlete, and I think he could make the transition to more of a contact sport, but he'd have to put on some weight."

Alexander said the scout informed him the Redskins found Flowers on a "wire," which listed numerous players by height and weight, and that Flowers was just one of many basketball players being contacted. Cerrato and other Redskins officials declined to comment about this strategy of pursuing basketball players for this article, but Coach Joe Gibbs has long been enamored of tight ends and H-backs in his offensive system, and the Redskins are likely to continue scouring non-traditional avenues to identify prospects.

Redskins Notes: An NFL personnel executive indicated that the Redskins were in discussions with Oakland concerning cornerback Philip Buchanon, but Cerrato refuted that through a team spokesman, saying, "There is no truth to that." Gibbs said that while the Redskins were not involved in substantial trade talks at this moment, many teams called the Redskins yesterday seeking trade partners. With the draft a week away, Gibbs said, "there's a lot going on out there." . . . The Redskins announced that safety Andre Lott signed his contract tender. Quarterback Tim Hasselbeck essentially has agreed to terms with the team, sources said, but had yet to sign their contract tenders as of yesterday afternoon. They are Washington's final unsigned free agents and should complete the process by early next week. . . . University of Miami cornerback Antrel Rolle and South Carolina wide receiver Troy Williamson were the last of about 15 draft prospects to visit Redskins Park yesterday, sources said. . . . Running back Clinton Portis is conducting his fourth annual charity weekend in Gainesville, Fla., providing free food and entertainment to about 6,000 people over two days. Portis was scheduled to visit a youth detention center yesterday, as well as return to his high school for an appearance and put on a comedy show featuring noted national acts. Numerous Redskins, Santana Moss and Sean Taylor among them, and other NFL players such as Michael Vick, Buchanon and Warren Sapp also are scheduled to appear. . . . The Redskins completed weeks of draft meetings yesterday afternoon and have finalized their player rankings ahead of next weekend's draft.

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