When Greg Paulus took an official visit to Syracuse, his hometown school, back in April, it was no ordinary tour. Paulus wasn't a 17-year-old kid getting wooed by big-time coaches who wanted to show off the new locker rooms.
Paulus was different. A big-time athlete, still, but a 21-year-old who had finished four years at Duke, playing for Mike Krzyzewski in the storied basketball program. Paulus, the Gatorade national player of the year in football in 2005, was looking to try his hand at the first sport he excelled in, with one year of NCAA eligibility left and a chance to play football professionally, something a 6-foot guard with intangibles but not elite skills could not do in basketball.
So he got a different sort of tour, one that new head coach Doug Marrone had to devise on the fly for this different sort of recruit.
"It was more about how we watch film. How he broke down the reads from his high-school playbook. How he processed the plays from our book we gave him," Marrone said. "From there, it was really only about, 'Can this guy do it, physically?' All the other questions were answered that day."
And now, after only nine practices, the performance questions have been answered. On Tuesday, Marrone named Paulus the Syracuse starting quarterback. So when the Orange takes the field for the season opener on Sept. 5 against Minnesota, Paulus will lead his new team.
Most popular sports stories
"I haven't played in a few years, so I'm not going into this thinking I have it all down," Paulus said. "I feel fortunate and blessed to have this opportunity. First, to have played Duke basketball for four years, and now to play football here, in my hometown."
Paulus is not exactly going from one elite program to another. He was the poster boy for Duke-haters during his time there, a stretch in which the Blue Devils never got deeper into the NCAA Tournament than the Sweet 16, a slump by their standards.
But now, at the school which he spurned for basketball to head to the ACC, he's got one year to make himself a pro prospect while the Orange try and rebuild from the ground up. Syracuse won 10 games the last four seasons under Greg Robinson, now the defensive coordinator at Michigan; Marrone, a Bronx native and Syracuse alum, has inherited barely anything from the previous regime.
So Paulus didn't exactly beat out Donovan McNabb for the starter's job. He merely came in after sophomore Ryan Nassib was named starter in the spring and took the spot. "My job is to win football games," Marrone said. "We like all our quarterbacks here. Greg gives us the best chance to win now."
For Paulus, the one-year experiment has lots of pluses. He is in a graduate broadcast-journalism program at the Newhouse School of Communications to further his hopes as a sports announcer. The Packers invited him in for a workout in the early spring, so a decent season might get him a shot at the NFL. He also wants to coach, either football or basketball, at some point.
"If I can do anything in [one of those three] categories, I'd be really excited about it," Paulus said. "[The starter's job] is one of the goals I wanted to accomplish. Now, it's on to the next one."
If anything, Marrone has a mature athlete who's handled life in the spotlight already - and as America's villain at times. That alone should help in Week 2, when the Orange head to Happy Valley and face Penn State.
"When you hear people talk about the quarterback position, it's not always about skill first," Marrone said. "You talk about leadership, those type of characteristics. Greg is a highly competitive, veteran, Division I athlete. That's going to help us a lot this year."