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GUS FREROTTE OF THE REDSKINS IS TAKING HIS LUMPS NOW--BUT HIS FOES WILL PAY LATER

Sept. 09, 1996
Sept. 09, 1996

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Sept. 9, 1996

GUS FREROTTE OF THE REDSKINS IS TAKING HIS LUMPS NOW--BUT HIS FOES WILL PAY LATER

Watching Redskins quarterback Gus Frerotte on Sunday was like
looking at an untamed young stallion. The Eagles broke him and
rode him in their 17-14 victory. This will not happen very often.

This is an article from the Sept. 9, 1996 issue Original Layout

Frerotte is an explosion waiting to go off, a 25-year-old
gunslinger who is not yet comfortable in a game in which touch
passing and craftiness are called for. But just wait. He will
win a lot of shoot-outs. He will put up a lot of Dan Marino-,
Warren Moon-type numbers before he's through.

Why this rush of optimism after such a dismal performance (12
for 25, 119 yards, one fumble, one grounding penalty)? I like
his mentality, his outlook on the game, the way he handles
himself. He is not a safety-first type of quarterback. He
doesn't take the easy way out. He'll keep attacking.

"The thing I liked about him from the beginning was that he had
a tough streak," says Hall of Fame quarterback Sonny Jurgensen,
a Redskins' radio analyst and a staunch supporter of Frerotte
during the time he has battled Heath Shuler for the starting
spot. "He'd make a mistake, he'd throw a pick, and it wouldn't
bother him. He'd come right back downfield. You see so many
young quarterbacks get tentative and take the easy route right
away, the donkey, the dump-off pass."

The Eagles' rush didn't give Frerotte time to get anything going
deep. His top long-ball threat, Michael Westbrook, was on the
inactive list with a sprained right knee, and Philly played a
pressing man-to-man defense, ganging up on the short stuff. Oh,
there were some openings, but the ball was getting there before
the receiver could adjust. Sometimes Frerotte would throw wide.
"I just think he was frustrated," said Eagles free safety
Michael Zordich after Sunday's game. "Everywhere he wanted to
throw, there was someone there. I think in spite of all the
trouble, he stood tall."

Instead of employing touch, Frerotte was applying muscle, and
the rhythm wasn't there. It will be. The first thing you want in
a young quarterback is the arm, then the mentality to keep going
down the field and wearing out the cornerbacks. Then comes the
touch.

Frerotte has the arm and the mean streak, plus something else,
something unique in these days of multimillion-dollar
quarterbacks: hunger. The 197th player picked in 1994, he's
still playing for seventh-round draft money ($182,000). He says
that doesn't bother him--right now. "If you're playing for the
love of the game," he says, "the money will come later."

Scouts now admit that they blew it three years ago when Frerotte
was coming out of Tulsa. He was a gunner but he was
inconsistent, is one thing you hear. Privately, some scouts say
that they wanted to draft him high, but the coach was turned
off, or the general manager, or someone.

"They looked at me coming out of college," Frerotte says, "and
they didn't see the greatest athlete. Well, my feet are quick, I
can move a little and I can throw the rock. Plus, I pride myself
on being a tough guy."

Hang in there, Gus. It's all ahead of you.

--Paul Zimmerman

Dr. Z's weekly Internet NFL preview is at
www.sportsillustrated.com.

COLOR PHOTO: RICHARD MACKSON On Sunday, Eagles like Kevin Johnson made it tough for a harassed Frerotte to breathe, let alone throw. [Kevin Johnson tackling Gus Frerotte]