|« Coastal Carolina player on the cutting edge||Soldier Field hosts Chicago Football Classic »|
William & Mary's Paulus finally gets shot to be the starting QB
Michael Paulus got a new shoulder for Christmas. William and Mary’s senior quarterback had surgery to repair a torn labrum two days before.
Paulus didn’t throw at all for four months and then nothing heavier than a tennis ball. He didn’t throw a football until May and didn’t throw every day until July.
“I babied it for a while,” he said.
That’s understandable. Paulus’ right arm has been his ticket throughout his career. It earned him Gatorade Player of the Year honors in New York state, and a spot on several prep All-American teams. It got him scholarships to North Carolina, where he began his college career, and William and Mary, where he transferred in 2010. It has NFL scouts stopping by the Williamsburg campus in greater-than-usual numbers this summer.
Now, it’s landed him at the top of a competitive depth chart as the Tribe opens its season Saturday at Virginia.
Paulus is starting ahead of Brett Caprio - who is a close No. 2 - despite missing spring ball and with his consistency and understanding of the offense not yet winning ringing endorsements from coach Jimmye Laycock.
“He still has a ways to go,” Laycock said. “We’re working toward it.”
Laycock is famously demanding of his quarterbacks, one reason his program has produced so many good ones. Last year, when many assumed Paulus would stroll in and win the job, Laycock instead chose Mike Callahan, a 5-foot-11 former walk-on who had never played in a game but knew the offense.
“Mike earned it. He knew what he was doing,” Paulus said. “I was inconsistent. There were days when I knew what I was doing and I was good and there were days where I’d be making mistakes.”
Paulus has had fewer of those days in preseason, a result of having another year to pick things up. Compared to a year ago, his grasp of the offense is “night and day,” he said.
Paulus seemed to be just getting the hang of things when his season ended last year. He saw his first significant action in Week 4, when Callahan went down with his own shoulder injury, and led the Tribe to a comeback win at Maine. He started the following week in a win over Villanova, then ranked No. 1in the Football Championship Subdivision, and in the two games after.
Paulus was having the game of his career in Week 8, leading the Tribe to a near-upset of North Carolina, when he fell awkwardly and two Tar Heels landed on his shoulder. He’d completed 24 of 35 passes against his former school, where he’d played in just four games in three years before transferring.
Doctors thought three or four weeks of rest would clear up his shoulder injury. When it didn’t respond, he had surgery.
Paulus doesn’t expect his arm to be 100 percent this season. Even so, he puts more zip on the ball than most quarterbacks at the FCS level. That arm strength, along with prototypical size (6-4, 220 pounds) will get him looks from NFL teams.
Paulus also has another quality the pros value: perseverance. Five years after coming out of high school as a can’t-miss prospect, he’s finally entering a season as a starter.
It’s been a long road. Now that he’s arrived, Paulus wants to make the most of his final season, which feels as much like a beginning as an end.
“If I can get a full year of being healthy and playing, I’ll be very happy,” he said.
By Ed Miller, The Virginian-Pilot