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Heisman winner moves to receiver

St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz is confident that Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch can make a quick transition from quarterback to wide receiver.

“It’s an easy transition for me to see with Eric to wide receiver with his change of direction,” Martz said. “Incredible speed. Great run after the catch possibilities. All of those types of things make him our type of individual.”

The Rams selected Crouch in the third round (95th overall pick) of the 2002 NFL draft

The 6-foot, 200-pound Crouch entered the NFL draft as a player without a clear-cut position. His lack of arm strength kept him from being considered a top-notch prospect at quarterback, the position he starred at for the University of Nebraska.

Some teams saw him as a running back – he set an NCAA record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with 59 – and other teams saw him as a safety.

The Rams think he can develop into a big-play wide receiver.

“I’ve been doing a lot of things at wideout the last three months,” Crouch said. “All of this was new to me, but I have been practicing and watching tape and out on the field catching balls probably more than throwing. I’ve done everything I possible could to get better, and now it’s time to find a place.

“I’m a quick learner and I picked things up very fast at Nebraska, learning a pretty complicated offense.”

Crouch was a wide receiver at the start of his sophomore year with the Cornhuskers, but became the starting quarterback after quarterback Bobby Newcombe went down with an injury in the second game of the season.

“I was there about a month and a half,” Crouch said of his time at wide receiver. “I got in a few games and did some blocking, caught some balls for touchdowns. So it’s going to be a totally new thing for me.”

Crouch said the most interest came from the Rams, Kansas City and Green Bay, although a dozen or so other teams called.

“I didn’t know how serious each team was,” Crouch said. “But I found a place that was close to home, and I’m going to make the most of it.”

Crouch’s speed and elusiveness should fit well into the Rams’ fastbreak offense.

In high school, Crouch ran the second fastest 100-meter dash in Nebraska state history at 10.2 seconds.

Crouch had a school-record 95-yard run in the Huskers’ victory over the University of Missouri this past season.

“I think they see that ability, making people miss and going the distance,” Crouch said.

The Rams would like to use Crouch in the same kind of “Slash” role that the Pittsburgh Steelers used quarterback Kordell Stewart early in his career. However, Martz said he hasn’t already started drawing up a bunch of special plays for Crouch.

“Once they learn the system and are comfortable at that position, then you start to be creative with them,” Martz said. “We would never start to do those things until (Crouch) gets a pretty good base in what we are doing as a wide receiver.”

Crouch knows that winning the Heisman Trophy and NFL success haven’t always gone hand-in-hand.

“The Heisman was not a goal of mine, but it’s something that came along with playing good football,” Crouch said. “I’ve set it aside and my goals are to become a great player in the NFL. The Heisman isn’t going to help me. It’s going to be up to me.”

Crouch was the first Heisman Trophy winner taken by the Rams since Doug Flutie in the 11th round of the 1985 draft.