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Former Iowa QB Christensen starts fresh at EIU

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

As a highly touted quarterback coming out of high school, Jake Christensen never thought he'd be attempting to salvage his football career at Eastern Illinois.

But after some trying times in Iowa City that led to his transfer from the Hawkeyes in January, Christensen knows there's no place he'd rather be.

"Even if I was the starter there, I can't say that I'd want to be there as opposed to here," Christensen recently told ESPN.com. "I love the coaches here, I love the guys and I'm happy."

Christensen, who started 13 consecutive games at Iowa in 2007 and 2008 before losing his job to Ricky Stanzi, is enrolled at Eastern Illinois as a graduate student and has been practicing with the team. The school is still waiting on the NCAA to clear Christensen for competition.

EIU team spokesman Rich Moser said the school's compliance office has been checking daily on Christensen's waiver with the NCAA, but there's no timetable for when an answer will come through.

If and when Christensen gets the go-ahead, he's confident he'll be a different player than the one fans saw at Iowa. In 2007, he passed for 2,269 yards with 17 touchdowns and six interceptions but completed just 53.5 percent of his throws and drew criticism for taking too many sacks.

Last fall Christensen split snaps with Stanzi before losing the top job following a 21-20 loss at Pitt.

"I feel I'm back, mechanically wise, to where I was when I left high school," he said. "That's a good place for me. For whatever reason, I got a little bulky at Iowa, a little stronger than I should have been, and my mechanics got a little out of whack. I got more like a linebacker than a quarterback and it kind of obstructed my throwing motion a little bit and threw things off.

"But it's not an excuse. It was just something I realized this summer with not lifting weights so hard that my motion was a little more fluid."

Christensen said Iowa never asked him to gain weight but it "just kind of happened." He made his mechanics a bigger focal point after leaving the program, and spent the summer working with his father, Jeff, a former NFL quarterback, as well as former NFL signal-caller Steve DeBerg.

"The coaches [at Iowa] focused more on the X's and O's than mechanics," Christensen said. "I don't think [offensive coordinator Ken] O'Keefe had much to do with mechanics. If you watch me now compared to last year, it'd be completely different throwing the ball, in a good way."

Though the transfer process as a graduate student is tricky, Christensen explored several options at both the FBS and FCS levels. He talked extensively with Colorado State and also considered Utah and Miami (Ohio).

But Eastern Illinois soon emerged as the front-runner. Jeff Christensen played at the school, and Jake had been recruited by EIU offensive coordinator Roy Wittke when Wittke served as Arkansas' offensive coordinator. The Tony Romo factor also helped (Romo starred at Eastern Illinois).

"With the whole Romo deal, he opened the doorway for smaller schools," Christensen said. "Now you've got guys like [former Delaware star Joe Flacco] in the NFL playing, not just making it but starting and playing well. I think it's a good place to me if you want to try and go further with your career."

Christensen doesn't downplay the difficulties he had at Iowa, but he's looking ahead.

"As far as having a fair shot, in my heart I can't really say that I believe that," he said. "But that being said, I don't have any negative energy toward them. They did what they did and it worked out for them. They are where they want to be.

"At the end of the day, I'm glad I went through it."