ST. PETERSBURG — Jordan Lynch is getting used to questions about his height and his future as a quarterback, and the Northern Illinois star found comfort in last weekend's NFL playoffs.
He saw Seattle's Russell Wilson, all of 5 feet 11, dueling against New Orleans star Drew Brees, also among the NFL's shortest quarterbacks at 6 feet tall.
"I'm probably taller than both of them," the 6-foot Lynch said with a smile this week, practicing with the East team for today's East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field.
With an electric combination of passing and running — 2,892 yards and 24 touchdowns through the air, 1,920 yards and another 23 scores rushing — Lynch finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting last month. And yet some NFL teams are politely asking if he would consider other positions, such as running back or even safety.
"I've met with a few scouts that really love me at quarterback," said Lynch, who has worked with Southern Methodist coach and quarterback guru June Jones on Jerry Glanville's staff this week. "There are some that like me as a special-teams player, some running back, receiver or safety."
With the Shrine Game being played for the third year in a row in St. Petersburg, Lynch is the game's most recognizable star. Few college quarterbacks have gone into the NFL draft in recent years with as much success running the ball. Lynch has totaled 3,735 yards and 42 touchdowns rushing for the Huskies in the past two years. He also understands that his athleticism might get him a better chance at an NFL roster than his arm.
"I'm a quarterback first, and I'm going to give the teams that want me at quarterback a shot first," Lynch said. "But I'm realistic. If it doesn't work, I'd be willing to do anything."
Wilson and Brees give hope to many undersized quarterback prospects, but they're two of just six QBs listed at 6 feet or shorter, out of 95 on NFL rosters; Philadelphia's Michael Vick is another.
But being a dual-threat QB in the NFL, where entire defenses have elite speed, is another challenge. Lynch need only look to last year's Shrine Game — Kansas State's Collin Klein, who also took third in the Heisman voting as a senior and rushed for 2,061 yards in his last two seasons, wasn't drafted at all and couldn't even land a contract as an undrafted rookie.
Harold Richardson, the Shrine Game's executive director, lobbied hard to get Lynch for his game, getting a recommendation from Jones. Richardson then turned and asked Jones to come and coach him.
Lynch is training in Indianapolis, where he will later be tested at the combine workouts, and he has impressed other prospects, such as Michigan's Jeremy Gallon, an East teammate this week.
Today brings a chance for Lynch to showcase his ability to run and pass; he rushed for 316 yards in one game this year, 321 in another, breaking the NCAA rushing record for a quarterback. He needs to make plays against fellow draft hopefuls, and he said his coaches have installed an offense that suits his strengths.
"We have quite a few plays in there, some quarterback runs, some quick plays and shots downfield that really benefit me," Lynch said.
Lynch goes into today as the third QB on the East roster in early draft rankings. Two Division I-AA standouts, Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo and Cornell's Jeff Mathews, have shined against lesser competition and validated buzz around them with a strong week of practice. ESPN ranks Garoppolo as its No. 8 draft prospect and Mathews No. 17, while Lynch is No. 22, meaning he will need to improve his stock just to be drafted at all.
For now, Lynch remains confident in his future as a quarterback, and a strong game could help more NFL teams think the same way.
"I'm not worried about a whole lot of things. I have tons of playmakers around me, so it'll make my job easy," he said. "The defense can't just key in on me."