Printers raises FAMU football hopes

LaDainian Tomlinson was the fifth pick of the 2001 NFL coming out of Texas Christian University, but he wasn’t MVP of the Mobile Alabama Bowl in 1999. That honor belonged to Casey Printers.

With spring football practice under way and the team engaged in live hitting, Rattler players and coaches are getting their first real look at Printers, the latest Division I-A quarterback to transfer to Florida A&M in the Billy Joe era.

Unlike the previous major college transfers, Printers was a starter with considerable experience, having started for three years. Barring injury, Printers will likely be the starter for the Rattlers Aug. 31 when FAMU visits defending national champion Miami at the Orange Bowl.

In 31 games as a starter for TCU, Printers went 23-8 and led the Horned Frogs to three bowl appearances. Printers was third in passing yards (4,621), third in touchdown passes (37), and fourth in completions (324) on TCU’s all-time list after his junior season.

Printers says it was FAMU’s academic reputation that ultimately led him to play his senior season here after considering Alabama State and Grambling.

“The programs were almost identical in winning, but the schooling is what separated Florida A&M from everybody else. I wanted to get the best of both worlds. I also wanted to compete in a playoff system,” Printers said.

After the 2000 season then head coach Dennis Franchione left TCU to become head coach at Alabama. Printers said he openly campaigned to the TCU athletic department to hire then-defensive coordinator Gary Patterson as head coach.

When Patterson was hired, Printers was told that the offense would be 50 percent run and 50 percent pass. According to Printers, after the first seven games last season, the offense was 80 percent run and 20 percent pass. He said he didn’t understand Patterson’s philosophy because the team was losing and he was told the offense would be 50/50. “They knew my passion was throwing the football,” Printers said.

Printers said the offense started throwing the ball more the last four games of the season because the team was behind in those games. He said that at that point he had decided that he needed a change.

“I couldn’t be deceived my senior year,” Printers said. “I wasn’t going to let that happen to me. I had to leave. I had to get out. I had to do something else.”

Printers said his family was supportive in his decision to come to FAMU.

“My family was like, ‘Go. Get away. Start over,’ ” Printers said. ” I hadn’t been to an all-black school since elementary. ” Playing in front of 60,000 to 70,000 in Orlando and Atlanta…all African-American people. I can’t wait. That’s something I’m anxious to see.”

FAMU head coach Billy Joe said it was his Gulf Coast offense, which throws the ball frequently that caught the attention of Printers.

” It revved up and energized our recruiting of Casey”, said Joe.

With Printers’ speed and elusiveness Joe said he brings an added dimension to the quarterback position.

“He beats you with his head, hands and feet. He has running ability that we haven’t had at the quarterback position in a long while. He has the ability to sustain drives, negotiate the ball downfield and into the end zone,” Joe said. Joe added he will put in schemes and concepts to maximize Printers’ total talent.

Printers said his preparation and experience in big games will be assets to the Rattler offense. At TCU, “We worked a lot on technique and being technically sound,” said Printers. “I’ve played against the best of the best.”

One example of the big games was the 2001 season opener at national runner-up Nebraska. After falling behind early 7-0, TCU tied the game when Printers reversed field and threw a 67-yard TD pass. Printers said, ” I knew we could play with them; I just wanted to throw the ball….We neglected to do it.”

The fact that TCU was down 14 points and continued to run the ball puzzled him. Printers said any opponent you play against you have to take your chances. “We weren’t supposed to win any way; what did we have to lose?” added Printers.” Nebraska won the game 21-7.

Printers said that TCU’s game against the University of Louisville was the first time the coaching staff incorporated input from him into their game plan. And it was Printers’ call that resulted in a 80-yard TD pass on the game’s first play. ” I knew how to beat them, said Printers. “We exploited their weaknesses.”

Printers threw for 256 yards and three scores and ran for one as the Horned Frogs upset the Cardinals 37-22.

Louisville defensive coordinator Chris Smeland said that Printers’ mobility was a key in TCU’s victory. “He had great movement qualities,” said Smeland. “He had a good ability to escape the rush. He kept us off balance.” He added that the Louisville defense, which racked up 46 sacks during the 2001 season, was only able to get to Printers once.

In the 2001 season finale, a nationally televised game against the University of Southern Mississippi, Printers accounted for both scores-one a six-yard run and the other 74-yard TD pass- in a 14-12 TCU victory.

Printers said it was a “game of wills” and that the Golden Eagles defense tried everything imaginable. “We just out executed them,” said Printers.

Southern Mississippi secondary coach Serrell Trimm said Printers made big runs when they lost containment and made big throws when it counted. “We’re glad he’s gone,” said Trimm.

Members of the Horned Frogs coaching staff declined to discuss Printers with The Famuan, saying they preferred to move on and focus on preparing for the 2002 season without him. But one close observer suggested TCU will have trouble replacing Printers.

Dan Noxon, TCU beat writer for the Dallas Morning News the past two seasons, said the Horned Frogs would probably be ranked going into the 2002 season if Printers had stayed. “He’s a great athlete who can get himself out of trouble and has an above average arm. He can get the ball deep,” said Noxon.

On the other hand, Noxon said Printers can improve by making better decisions with the football. At times, he said, Printers forces the ball into coverage. “He wants to hit the home run every play,” Noxon said. Noxon recalled one of the four interceptions Printers threw in the 2001Gallery bowl game against Texas A&M.

Noxon said Printers eluded defenders and avoided a safety but was picked after throwing into coverage. “He should have thrown that ball out of bounds,” said Noxon. The Aggies returned it deep into Horned Frog territory and eventually scored. The Aggies beat TCU 28-9 in what would be his last game in a Horned Frog uniform.

Printers brings a blue-chip resume to Bragg Stadium. As a high school senior at DeSoto High School in DeSoto, Tex., Printers was named a Top 100 selection by the Dallas Morning News and Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

He also was named to the Texas Top 120 and All-American Team by SuperPrep, a highly regarded national recruiting magazine.

Printers chose TCU over schools such as Notre Dame, Syracuse, Oklahoma and Texas A&M.

He noted that a lot of Dallas area players went to Division I-A schools.

“I was grateful to be in that crowd,” said Printers. “It was a great feeling knowing that my education was paid for and being close to home. That was my thought process when I came out of high school.”

In 1999 Printers became the first true freshman to start at quarterback for TCU since 1993.

He started 10 games leading the Horned Frogs to an 8-2 record and a bowl victory over East Carolina. At season’s end he was name a third team All-American by the Sporting News finishing behind Brooks Bollinger of Wisconsin and Michael Vick of Virginia Tech, the first overall pick in 2001 NFL draft.

Since arriving on campus this semester, Printers said he is establishing a rapport with teammates and is trying to fit in with them. ” The transition has been great. These guys work their butts off. When I was at the other university I didn’t have guys coming up to me saying, ‘Let’s work out.’ “

Playing in the NFL is a goal that Printers would like to attain. To improve on his draft status for the 2003 NFL draft, Printers said if he is thought of as the best quarterback in Florida that will certainly help.

In the Gulf Coast offense, Printers could meet his goal if he can match or improve upon his sophomore year numbers at TCU. In 2000 Printers was the nation’s fourth-ranked quarterback in I-A measured by passing efficiency.

Printers summed up his decision to come to FAMU. He said, “If you are good, the NFL scouts will find you. It’s a great situation for me and for Florida A&M University.”