Froman on NFL radar

By ERIC BRANCH
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Armed with a 3.83 GPA, but sidelined by a thigh injury, Santa Rosa’s Adam Froman was preparing for his post-football future a few months ago.
As Louisville’s senior quarterback sat during the season’s final five games, the interest he’d inspired from NFL scouts vanished. Later, 18 college quarterbacks attended the NFL Combine, but Froman’s invitation, once thought to be a formality, never arrived.
The NFL? Please. After Louisville’s season, Froman was thinking about his getting his master’s degree, not getting drafted.
“It’s kind of a reality check,” Froman said. “It opens your eyes. I had to start looking at possible job opportunities. … There were a few options. But nothing as exciting as the NFL.”
As it turns out, Froman has put his pursuit of higher education on hold because the whip-smart communications major has learned something valuable: The NFL keeps tabs on speedy and strong-armed 6-foot-4, 219-pound quarterbacks whose intangibles — leadership, intelligence and work ethic — are off the charts.
After a head-turning pro day last week before scouts from 27 NFL teams, Froman, who had 11 touchdowns and four interceptions in his abbreviated senior season, is considered a likely late-round selection in next month’s NFL draft.
“I can see a team taking a gamble on him,” said CBS Sports draft analyst Rob Rang, who pegs Froman as a seventh-round pick. “The reality is that he’s 6-4, 220. And with that arm and that athletic ability then, yeah, there’s some tools there to work with.”
Froman showed off all his tools at Louisville’s pro day. He displayed a better-than-average arm while completing 33 of 35 passes. In addition to his arm, there was his athleticism. He ran the 40-yard dash in an unofficial time of 4.55 seconds, which would have ranked third among quarterbacks at the NFL Combine. His times in the three-cone drill (6.6 seconds) and 20-yard shuttle (4.08) would have ranked first.
During his pro day, Froman had extensive sit-down interviews with the Falcons and Chiefs. He had informal meetings with scouts from seven other teams, including the 49ers, who invited him to their local pro day on April 20 at the team’s facility in Santa Clara.
Rang, who hadn’t watched film of Froman until this week, included him in an article Wednesday highlighting the draft’s top diamonds in the rough.
“My pro day just went really, really well — about as good as I could have hoped for,” Froman said. “… The ball was coming out real crisp. On a dime. Right where I wanted it. It was great to come into a big day where I really had to show my stuff and do that well.”
Froman’s clutch performance was much-needed given his injury history, which had helped pushed him off the NFL radar.
He missed 10 games due to injuries in his two seasons at Louisville. In 2009, he was sidelined for the first three games with a torn back muscle and later missed two more with a strained oblique. This past season, he was shelved for the year after he was hit above the knee on Oct. 30 in a 20-3 loss against Pittsburgh. The impact from the collision tore his left quadriceps muscle off his femur bone.
The injuries limited Froman to 15 games in his two seasons at Louisville. That’s not much Division I experience, particularly considering he didn’t play organized football until his sophomore year at Maria Carrillo High and backed up Greg Alexander, the future starter at Hawaii, as a freshman at Santa Rosa Junior College.
But his numbers in those 15 games at Louisville — a 60.2 completion percentage with 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions — hint at his potential, said Cardinals offensive coordinator Mike Sanford.
“I think he’s a really good bet for someone to take because he has a tremendous upside and not everyone has been able to see that,” said Sanford, the former head coach at UNLV. “Somebody is going to evaluate that and they are going to get an inexperienced player who’s going to end up being a lot better than what people think.”
There are fewer questions about Froman’s leadership, drive and toughness, qualities of particular importance to NFL teams when evaluating quarterbacks.
Sanford recalls Froman dragging his left leg while running during a late-season practice in an almost comical attempt to prove he was healthy enough to play. Sanford, who was the Chargers wide receivers coach when 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh played in San Diego from 1999-2000, says Froman is a film-room junkie and competitor after Harbaugh’s heart.
“Adam will grind as much or more as Jim Harbaugh,” Sanford said. “… Adam is right up the alley as far as what Jim is looking for in a quarterback.”
Froman, who grew up as a 49ers fan, would welcome the chance to play in San Francisco.
But he’s not picky. A few months ago, he thought his dream was dead. Now he’s thrilled to continue pursuing his passion.
“To be at this point and to actually just have a chance is great,” he said. “… But now that I’m here, I want it all. I want to get there. I want to get a roster spot. I want to play and do well.”
For more on the 49ers, go to Instant 49ers at 49ers.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Writer Eric Branch at eric.branch@pressdemocrat.com and follow him at twitter.com/Eric_Branch.