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Thursday, January 29, 2009
Patton excited to show what he can do

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Former Missouri quarterback Chase Patton might be the most unlikely player in the Texas vs. the Nation All-Star Game.

First, Patton barely got a chance to play while in college. And he didn't even play for a Texas school.

But it's not as if Patton isn't complaining. He's just happy to be playing with the Texas team in Saturday's game at the Sun Bowl in El Paso.

"I'm very fortunate that I'm getting my opportunity," Patton said. "I want to go out and make the most of my chance when I get it."

Patton arrived at Missouri as one of the Midwest's most heralded high school players after earning Missouri Gatorade Player of the Year honors in 2003. He was rated as one of the top five quarterbacks nationally coming to Missouri in the recruiting class of 2004.

The plan was for Patton to sit behind Brad Smith for a couple of years and then take over the starting position after Smith graduated.

But shortly after Patton's arrival, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel switched to a spread offensive attack that put a premium on movement. It also was the same offense that Chase Daniel played in high school.

Daniel thrived in the offense, beating out Patton to become one of the most decorated players in the school's football history. Patton threw only 31 passes during his college career as he backed up Daniel.

Some might be surprised that Patton never left for another playing opportunity. But the Columbia, Mo., native believes that his college experiences have given him perspective that will suit him well in whatever he does in the rest of his life.

"My faith is a big part of my life," Patton said. "I wouldn't have scripted it like it's played out, but I've learned some things about perseverance and mental toughness through what I've done. There have been a lot of valuable things that I've learned, but it's been hard sometimes to see something good come out of it."

And a funny thing happened as pro scouts looked at Daniel and compared him to Patton. It turns out the second-stringer might be better suited to play professionally because of his size and arm strength.

Scouts love Patton's size (6-foot-5, 220 pounds). But he's very raw and hasn't really shown much while playing for the Tigers, leaving his ability as something of a mystery for pro scouts who have flocked to watch workouts this week.

He's working under center for the first time in several years during his workouts for Saturday's game after operating in the shotgun in Pinkel's offense for most of his college career.

After providing some anxious initial moments, Patton is warming to the change.

"It was a little tough getting my chemistry with my receivers early in the week," Patton said. "But I'm getting comfortable just going out and playing and not thinking. I'm getting into rhythm and things are starting to come together for me."

Daniel and Patton were close through the years, serving as roommates the day before a game and spending the day before the game in a "Cold Tub Confessionals" where they dissected defenses as they prepared for their opponents.

They have talked a couple of times this week as Patton gets his big chance working outside Daniel's shadow.

Patton has already been accepted for dental school, although he wants to play out his dream of playing in professional football to its fullest.

It's why he's been working hard since the Tigers' Alamo Bowl victory over Northwestern, focusing on opportunities like playing in Saturday's game.

"Some people might look at it [dental school] as a bad thing, but I think it's something that's good," Patton said. "I have it on the back burner. There's nothing guaranteed in what I'm doing now, but I'm 110 percent into it."

If Patton needs any inspiration, he needs to only think of the development of New England Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel, who similarly seldom played in college as he backed up Heisman Trophy winners Matt Leinart and Carson Palmer at USC.

Despite that lack of work, Cassel caught the attention of pro scouts through strong workouts after his season. That led to him being picked in the seventh round of the 2005 draft by New England.

After starter Tom Brady went down with a season-ending injury in the first week of the 2008 season, Cassel blossomed in his big chance as he threw for 3,693 yards and 21 touchdowns.
Not too shabby for a quarterback who hardly got to play in college.

That development is serving as inspiration for Patton as he prepares for his own professional football opportunity.

"He's basically my idol because of what he's been able to do once he got the chance," Patton said. "It's amazing that although he only had 33 throws in college, it shows that they (pro scouts) don't leave a stone unturned. That's valuable to me to know that I have a shot, too."