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SHOWING AT COMBINE SACKED WALSH'S STATUS

Someone did a whale of a sell job on John Walsh. Except that the NFL didn't buy it.

Draftnik Mel Kiper Jr. said last fall that the Brigham Young quarterback could be the first selection of the 1995 NFL draft and still had him rated as a top 30 pick as recently as this month.Then on draft day, Classic Cards passed out a set of rookie trading cards in New York. It included potential high picks in the uniforms of their prospective teams. Among the cards of top 10 picks Ki-Jana Carter, Steve McNair, Kerry Collins and J.J. Stokes were those of Walsh wearing uniforms of the Carolina Panthers, Miami Dolphins and Minnesota Vikings.

Walsh had skipped his senior season at Brigham Young for this day. What a mistake. Walsh didn't go in the first round, didn't go on the first day, almost didn't go at all. The Cincinnati Bengals finally drafted him in the seventh and final round. Top 30? He didn't even make the top 200.

So instead of returning to Brigham Young this fall to contend for a Heisman Trophy, Walsh will report to Cincinnati, where he will serve as a third-string quarterback and clipboard holder for the lowly Bengals.

The Bengals considered Walsh a steal. He was a big-time producer in college, having passed for 300 yards in 18 of his 26 career starts. But that seventh-round selection was a humbling experience for Walsh.

"We told him we don't care how players get here - just that they get here," Bengals coach Dave Shula said.

There were three reasons Walsh slipped. First, there was concern that he was merely a product of the Brigham Young system such as NFL backups Ty Detmer and Robbie Bosco before him. Second, he doesn't have a rocket-launcher for an arm like McNair and Collins. And third, he isn't very athletic.

Colorado's Kordell Stewart began the draft process behind Walsh on the quarterback board but wound up as a second-round pick. He was the best athlete of all the quarterbacks in this draft. He ran a 4.52 40-yard dash on the slow artificial surface at the combine. He also had a 37-inch vertical jump and a 10-feet, 9-inch broad jump.

Two other quarterbacks who vaulted ahead of Walsh in the process were Todd Collins of Michigan and Stoney Case of New Mexico. Collins went to Buffalo in the second round and Case to Arizona in the third. Again, the edge was athleticism. Case ran a 4.82 40 and Collins a 4.9. Both had vertical jumps of 31 inches and broad jumps of 9-3.

The jumps are important in the scouting process because they reveal leg explosion and quickness. They give NFL teams an idea of how a quarterback can move around the pocket and escape danger. The 40-yard dash reveals a quarterback's ability to avoid pursuit.

The testing of Walsh indicated he was a sitting duck for pass rushers. He had a vertical jump of only 25 inches and a broad jump of 7-7. He ran a 40-yard dash in 5.3 seconds on a fast, rubberized track.

That's why Walsh slipped on draft day.

"He's put that behind him," said Tom Condon, Walsh's agent. "Sooner or later, you've got to go out and play.

It doesn't make a difference what round you go - you've still got to prove yourself on the field."