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Niners Pick Dorsey’s During Seventh Round

April 28, 2003

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) _ When the San Francisco 49ers’ top brass watched Ken Dorsey throw during a workout at their training complex two weeks ago, they didn’t understand the hype.

Where was the weak-armed, pencil-thin quarterback who supposedly won 38 games and a national championship at the University of Miami only because of his talented teammates and an outstanding system? The 49ers saw a strapping athlete zipping passes across the hash marks and down the field with NFL skill.

Based largely on a dynamite workout in Santa Clara for local players, the 49ers selected Dorsey with their seventh-round draft pick Sunday.

One of the most successful college quarterbacks in recent history also was one of the most maligned, but the 49ers believe his abilities are worth investigating.

``When we had him out here in our workout, he had plenty of arm strength,″ new coach Dennis Erickson said. ``I know our people at the combine said it was a totally different guy (in the 49ers’ workout). To me, his arm strength isn’t a factor. He’s a winner. We think he’ll be a player in this league.″

There’s been a huge difference of opinion on the NFL prospects of Dorsey, a native of nearby Orinda who had one of the most impressive careers in NCAA history.

He was a two-time finalist for the Heisman Trophy while leading the Hurricanes to the 2001 title and setting nearly every Miami passing record under coaches Butch Davis and Larry Coker, but some experts believe his leadership and intangible winning abilities are outweighed by a subpar arm and mediocre mobility.

At home in the East Bay on Sunday, Dorsey had begun to take calls from teams wanting to sign him as a free agent when the 49ers called his name.

``I’d be a fool if I didn’t feel like I had something to prove,″ Dorsey said. ``A lot of people passed up on me, but I’m just excited to be with the San Francisco 49ers. This is a team I’ve always dreamed about playing for, and who better to prove a point with than the team you’ve grown up with idolizing?″

The negative opinions about Dorsey were cemented in his middling workouts at the NFL combine. But Dorsey spent several weeks at a camp in Arizona _ where he joined in workouts and pingpong games with Kwame Harris, the Stanford offensive lineman who was the 49ers’ first-round pick _ in addition to an aggressive weight-training regimen and an improved diet.

``I feel like the ball has been coming out a lot better,″ Dorsey said. ``My spiral has gotten a lot tighter because I haven’t really had to try to overpower a throw or anything like that. A lot of that has to do with the added strength that I put on.″

The results are striking: Dorsey has added 26 pounds of muscle to his 6-foot-4 frame since the Hurricanes lost the national title game to Ohio State in January, and his increased strength is obvious in his throws.

``I know he certainly has his doubters, but our coaching staff felt strongly about him,″ 49ers general manager Terry Donahue said. ``I had a good feeling for him, and we just thought this was a good investment.″

The Niners couldn’t resist Dorsey, but the move added to San Francisco’s seemingly annual logjam behind three-time Pro Bowler Jeff Garcia.

At minicamp next week, the 49ers will look at Tim Rattay, Garcia’s backup the past two years; Cade McNown, whose recovery from shoulder surgery is progressing well; Brandon Doman, who didn’t play as San Francisco’s rookie No. 3 quarterback last season; and Dorsey.

Erickson said he’s hopeful the 49ers will be down to three or four quarterbacks by training camp on July 25, but ``if we can’t make a decision, then we can’t make a decision.″

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