Mike Pawlawski got the bad news April 26, one round at a time.
After leading resurgent California to two consecutive bowl victories and being voted co-offensive player of the year in the Pacific 10 Conference, the quarterback expected the best of news on draft day.
When two other quarterbacks, Houston's David Klingler and UCLA's Tommy Maddox, were selected during the first round as he watched on television with friends near Santa Cruz, Pawlawski still was optimistic.
Other quarterbacks continued to be drafted. Virginia's Matt Blundin to Kansas City. Penn State's Tony Sacca to Phoenix. Miami's Craig Erickson to Tampa Bay. Florida State's Casey Weldon to Philadelphia. Virginia Tech's Will Furrer to Chicago. William & Mary's Chris Hakel to Washington.
When the TV cameras shut down after five rounds, Pawlawski's name hadn't been called. On the second day, after 12 quarterbacks had been picked, Tampa Bay took him during the eighth round.
In some ways, it was a familiar experience for Pawlawski. Throughout his career, he has had to prove himself. After coming to Cal from Troy High in Fullerton, one reporter dismissed him as "the worst Pac-10 recruit of 1986." Then, while he was competing for the starting job as a redshirt junior, a Bay Area columnist questioned Pawlawski's ability.
Pawlawski figured that was all behind him. He believed a 17-6-1 record as a starter in one of the nation's premier conferences, 4,779 passing yards and 38 touchdown passes would count for something.
He was wrong, and he says the problem was his size: 6 feet 1, 205 pounds.
"It was kind of brutal," Pawlawski said. "But I'm past that point now, and I wish that everybody else could get past that point, also. There's a lot of guys that played in this league for a long time who never even got drafted or got drafted really late.
"The draft is computer football at its finest. Guys who are big and strong end up getting picked really high, and a lot of these guys end up doing absolutely nothing.
"I'm a leader and I'm a strong personality. I'm a person who people will follow on a field, and that doesn't come out at (scouting) combines. At combines, you're a piece of meat. They weigh you and they check you for fat content. It's almost like you're a meal.
"I did real well back at the combines. I completed every pass I threw. I had a 4.7(-second) 40(-yard dash). I did everything real well, and it still didn't help me because they're looking for the 6-5 giant who weighs 225 pounds.
"A lot of teams picked that guy, and a lot of teams are going to be in trouble."
Pawlawski, who needs four credits for his degree in sociology, had the highest score of any 1992 draft pick on the NFL's intelligence test. So no one has to tell him it's going to take hard work to become an NFL quarterback.
Still, Pawlawski says it's only a matter of time before he is starting in the NFL.
"I was never supposed to be a great high school quarterback, and I was," he said. "Then I was never supposed to be a great college quarterback, and I was the MVP of the Pac-10. My motto has been shoot for unreachable goals, and if you reach them, you're amazing. If you fall short, then you're still excellent.
"Right now, I want to be the best quarterback that has ever played in the NFL."
First, however, he must make a roster. Vinny Testaverde is the Tampa Bay starter and NFL veteran Steve DeBerg was brought in this year to be his backup, leaving Pawlawski and Erickson to compete for the third spot.
With Testaverde and DeBerg taking a crash course in the no-huddle offense installed by first-year Coach Sam Wyche, Pawlawski's playing time in exhibitions has been limited. Of the four quarterbacks, he had taken the fewest snaps going into Saturday night's game against Miami.
During the first exhibition, against Denver, Pawlawski completed two of five passes for three yards. During the second, against Atlanta last week, he completed two of five for 23 yards and scrambled 21 yards during a 68-yard field goal drive that ran out the last seven minutes of the first half. Against Miami on Saturday, his only pass was intercepted.
Wyche apparently has been impressed. After the Falcon game, he was confident he had four quarterbacks who can play in the NFL.
"We would like to keep all four of the quarterbacks," said Turk Schonert, Tampa Bay's quarterbacks coach. "The one who isn't on the roster, we want him here on our developmental team so we can keep working with him."
Schonert, a standout at Stanford who played nine seasons in the NFL as a backup, said Pawlawski reminds him of himself. They are the same size, and both were drafted late.
"I was told I was going to be a third-round, maybe fourth-round pick," Schonert said. "And I wound up being a ninth-round pick. I just told him, 'Hey, you've got to forget about that. You're in the NFL, and you're going to get your shot.'
"I was in camp 11 years. You can't let those things bother you too much, because you've got to get on with business.
"Mike's a competitive guy, a fiery guy and a good leader, and he's a bright kid. We drafted him for all those reasons, and it held true when he got here."
Schonert said Pawlawski's only hitch--one in his throwing motion--has been corrected. Working with Wyche in minicamp this spring, Pawlawski compacted his motion, and Schonert said his passes now have more power and accuracy.
Pawlawski said he isn't accustomed to the new motion.
"It's not me yet," he said. "But as soon as it is, look out. It will just improve my game that much more. Now I'll have all the intangibles, and I'll have the mechanics.
"My release won't be like (Dan) Marino's. It won't be like (Joe) Montana's or (Don) Majkowski's. It will be Pawlawski, but it will be quick."
The Quarterback Market
How Mike Pawlawski rated among quarterbacks selected through nine rounds of the 1992 draft.
NO. PLAYER (COLLEGE) TEAM 6. David Klingler (Houston) Cincinnati Bengals 25. Tommy Maddox (UCLA) Denver Broncos 40. Matt Blundin (Virginia) Kansas City Chiefs 46. Tony Sacca (Penn State) Phoenix Cardinals 86. Craig Erickson (Miami) Tampa Bay Buccaneers 102. Casey Weldon (Florida State) Philadelphia Eagles 107. Will Furrer (Virginia Tech) Chicago Bears 112. Chris Hakel (William & Mary) Washington Redskins 166. Jeff Blake (East Carolina) New York Jets 211. Kent Graham (Ohio State) New York Giants 220. Bucky Richardson (Texas A&M;) Houston Oilers 222. Mike Pawlawski (California) Tampa Bay Buccaneers 227. Brad Johnson (Florida State) Minnesota Vikings 228. T.J. Rubley (Tulsa) Rams 230. Ty Detmer (Brigham Young) Green Bay 242. Darian Hagan (Colorado) San Francisco 49ers