Search

HE'S ONLY A PHONE CALL AWAY

Dec. 15, 1997
Dec. 15, 1997

Table of Contents
Dec. 15, 1997

HE'S ONLY A PHONE CALL AWAY

By RICHARD DEUTSCH

Lost among the daily transactions in every sports section are
the names of wandering souls like Gino Torretta. The former
University of Miami quarterback and 1992 Heisman Trophy winner
has become a regular on those lists in the past five years, his
name usually preceded by either "signed" or "waived." Since he
was selected by the Vikings in the seventh round of the '93
draft, Torretta has been waived eight times by five teams. He
has appeared in only two NFL games.

This is an article from the Dec. 15, 1997 issue Original Layout

A late-summer cut of the Seahawks, Torretta got his most recent
"opportunity" in mid-November. With Jim Harbaugh, Paul Justin
and Kelly Holcomb either slowed or sidelined by injuries, the
Colts signed Torretta as an emergency quarterback on Nov. 11. He
suited up for the following Sunday's upset of the Packers and
collected $11,529, but the Colts released him the following day,
and he returned to his job at a Boca Raton, Fla., investment
company.

"My bosses know that I want to play football, so they understand
when I leave on short notice," says Torretta, who estimates that
he has made about $500,000 in the game. "I keep myself in shape
by running a couple of miles a day or doing sprints, or I'll go
to the University of Miami and work out. As far as throwing
passes, I just can't grab some guy off the street to run routes
for me. Usually I'll find someone at the university who I used
to play with or who is working out and ask him to throw with me."

In early fall 1995 Torretta called Bill Walsh and asked the
former 49ers coach if he would critique his techniques. Walsh
had Torretta throw about 75 passes, and about two months later
the Niners signed the quarterback, marking the first of four
times he would sign with--and be released by--the club. The
latest occurred in November 1996, but a day after being waived,
Torretta was picked up by the Seahawks, for whom he saw his only
significant action. Replacing the injured Stan Gelbaugh in the
first quarter of the season finale against the Raiders, Torretta
completed five of 16 passes for 41 yards, with one touchdown and
one interception. The Seahawks won 28-21.

Workouts aren't always as extensive as the one Torretta went
through with Walsh. "In Indianapolis I had my quickest tryout of
them all," he says. "I came in on a Monday night and met with
coach Lindy Infante for three hours to learn the offense. I went
back at seven the next morning, studied for three more hours. I
threw about 20 passes to a couple of assistant coaches, and then
I was told, 'O.K., we're going to sign you.'"

Because he has experience with so many offenses, Torretta says
it isn't difficult to grasp a new system. The hard part is
keeping the terminology straight. "The concept of protection and
the routes are similar throughout the league," he says. "But
sometimes you're given something you remember from another team,
and your mind reverts to that. You think, They call this
protection 60 here in Indy, but this protection was called Ram
or Lion in Seattle, or in San Francisco it was named Jet
Protection."

Despite the repeated rejections, Torretta won't stop pursuing a
career in the NFL. "I have no timetable," he says. "I still have
the skills. It's just a matter of getting the right opportunity
and taking advantage of it. I'm going to keep doing it until
teams say I can't do it anymore."

--RICHARD DEUTSCH

COLOR PHOTO: BILL FRAKES Torretta has a Heisman but no NFL job to show for it. [Gino Torretta]