Washington QB Selling Versatility

April 26, 2007

SEATTLE (AP) - If only Isaiah Stanback was simply trying to climb back on a horse.

Instead, the dynamic-then-derailed Washington quarterback is trying to climb back early from a major form of a peculiar Lisfranc foot injury first discovered by Napoleon's field surgeon, one that has ruined football careers. Two months before doctors said he'd be able to jog, Stanback is trying to surge into the opening day of the NFL draft and become some team's versatile steal.

'Whoever grabs me is going to be very happy,' Stanback said Wednesday, his usual, cool, engaging smile emerging again beneath his long, braided hair.

Stanback, expected by some draft experts to go in the fourth round but hoping to rise into the third, was seated inside an indoor track and football facility on the UW campus. He had just smoothly completed his first batch of 100-yard sprints since he sustained the Lisfranc injury - a bone, joint and ligament displacement and often fracture in the midfoot - six months ago.

The injury is named after Jacques Lisfranc. He first diagnosed a pattern of severe injuries to soldiers of the French calvary whose feet had become violently twisted inside their stirrups while falling off horses. At least Stanback didn't endure the remedy of Lisfranc's day: amputation.

Now, it's surgery and screws. Doctors removed three screws from Stanback's' right foot six weeks ago. He planted on the screws to throw passes at the NFL combine in Indianapolis in February, and felt it each time he did.

'It wasn't pain free, but ... I just wanted to suck it up and show SOMETHING,' he said.

Wednesday, he did again. He showed off his powerful throwing arm, the one which made him second all-time at Washington for yards per completion (14.38) despite having three different coaches in five years - Rick Neuheisel, Keith Gilbertson and Tyrone Willingham.

Stanback glided across the synthetic grass at the Dempsey Indoor facility, football tucked under his arms as it was while he finished third in career rushing yards by a Husky quarterback (794). He showed glimpses of his previous, 4.42 speed in the 40-yard dash, the gift that made him a finalist in the Pac-10 championships in the 100 meters last spring. He finished one place out of qualifying for the NCAA finals.

Wednesday, Stanback ran shirtless, revealing the muscular upper body of a running back and the sleek torso of a wide receiver. It's a hint of the versatility that have led the New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys, St. Louis Rams and Jacksonville Jaguars to have Stanback in for private workouts recently. He said two to three teams call him each day. The NFL knows he also has brains - he graduated in four years from Washington with a degree in American ethnic studies.

Stanback said the Patriots seem most intrigued. All the teams have told him that they could use Stanback on special teams until he develops as an NFL quarterback. A team drafting Stanback may be able to afford to carry just two passers on the roster, knowing it would have a third listed as a wide receiver.

'Everybody likes the athlete, but you have to pay attention to the injury deal,' said Tim Ruskell, the Seattle Seahawks president and general manager. 'Its split down the middle on whether you should bring him in as a QB or a wide receiver. But there's a lot of buzz on the guy. Hes such a good athlete.'

The screws went in last Oct. 17, three days after Stanback crumpled to the Husky Stadium turf in a game against Oregon State because his foot and ankle had turned grotesquely outward while he tried to change direction.

With him, Washington started last season 4-1, more wins than in the previous two seasons. Without him, Washington lost its next four games and finished 5-7.

'I went to a game. He can do some amazing things,' said Ruskell, whose hometown team does not need a quarterback - but could use Stanback's athleticism.

'But he didn't finish the year.'

Because of that, Stanback went from a potential Pac-10 player of the year who thought he'd be a first-round draft choice to packed in doubt about whether his boyhood dreams of being a professional athlete 'giving back to the kids, running camps and stuff,' were fractured, too.

As he was carted out of Husky Stadium on that gray October day, he said 'everything pretty much flashed before me. I knew everything was messed up.

'I thought I was going to be that forgotten guy.'

Doctors told him he would not be able to jog for 8-12 months. Two days after his surgery, he was back in the UW weight room.

Six months later, he's farther along the same route previously taken by Errict Rhett, Duce Staley, Ty Law and Kevin Jones, among others. Rhett's NFL career ended following a Lisfranc injury in 2000. Staley came back after his in 2001, but was never the same. Pittsburgh cut him last December. Law returned from surgery late in 2004 to intercept a career high 10 passes for the Jets the next season.

Jones, Detroit's running back, had surgery for a Lisfranc fracture in his left foot last December. He just starting jogging on a treadmill and hopes to be ready for Lions training camp in July.

When Stanback hears these names, he just smiles.

'I never heard of doggone Lisfranc before,' he said, chuckling. 'I learned a lot more than I wanted to know. Ever.'

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