Notable college QBs have been changing positions for years


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Tim Tebow wasn’t the first — and surely won’t be the last — college quarterback to switch positions in the NFL. The 2007 Heisman Trophy winner is, however, the first to do it more than a decade after making his professional debut.

Tebow signed a one-year contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday and is returning to pro football for the first time since getting released by Philadelphia a week before the 2015 season opener.

The former Florida star and 2010 first-round draft pick by Denver is reuniting with his college coach, Urban Meyer, and trying to revive his career as a tight end following a five-year baseball stint in the New York Mets’ organization.

No one expects Tebow’s latest transition to be an easy one, especially at age 33.

Here’s a look at other notable college QBs who made position changes much earlier as pros:

— Marlin Briscoe, Omaha University: “The Magician” became the professional football’s first Black starting quarterback with Denver in 1968, going 2-3 with 14 touchdown passes in that role. He asked for his release the following year in hopes of remaining at QB. But he signed with Buffalo, which already had Jack Kemp, Tom Flores and James “Shack” Harris. So Briscoe moved to wideout, where he played eight more seasons. He topped 1,000 yards in 1970 with the Bills and won consecutive Super Bowls with Miami, finishing his career with 33 TDs (30 receiving, three rushing).

— Josh Cribbs, Kent State: Signed with Cleveland as an undrafted free agent in 2005 and became one of the NFL’s most dangerous returners. Cribbs spent 10 years in the league, finishing with 17 touchdowns and three Pro Bowl appearances.

— Nolan Cromwell, Kansas: After starting his college career as a safety, Cromwell moved to the other side of the ball and broke several Big Eight and NCAA rushing records for quarterbacks. The Rams drafted him in the second round in 1977 as a defensive back. He was a three-time All-Pro in an 11-year career.

— Eric Crouch, Nebraska: The 2001 Heisman Trophy winner reluctantly switched to receiver but never got on the field with St. Louis, which drafted him in the third round in 2002. He landed in NFL Europe in 2005 and moved to safety.

— Julian Edelman, Kent State: The three-time Super Bowl champion and Super Bowl 53 MVP was a three-year starting quarterback in college before New England drafted him in the seventh round in 2009. He scored 42 TDs in 11 years with the Patriots, mostly as a wide receiver, but also spent time as a defensive back.

— Armanti Edwards, Appalachian State: A third-round pick by Carolina in 2010, Edwards rarely saw action at receiver in four NFL seasons. He was much more productive in the Canadian Football League.

— Scott Frost, Nebraska: After going 24-2 and winning a national championship with the Cornhuskers, Frost switched to safety and was a third-round pick by the Jets in 1998. He started just one game in three years with New York and was a backup with three other teams.

— Jim Jensen, Boston University: After going 17-3-1 with the Terriers, Jensen was drafted by Miami in the 11th round in 1981 as a quarterback. Buried on the depth chart behind David Woodley, Don Strock and eventually Dan Marino, Jensen found a niche as a do-it-all guy who made plays on special teams and as a running back, receiver and tight end.

— Matt Jones, Arkansas: The 6-foot-6 Jones impressed scouts at the NFL combine with his speed and jumping ability. Jacksonville grabbed him with the 21st pick in the 2005 draft and turned him into a receiver. Just as he was getting a feel for the position, he was suspended for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

— Nick Marshall, Auburn: Invited to the Senior Bowl as a quarterback, Marshall switched to cornerback during the week and signed with Jacksonville as an undrafted rookie. He started one game in two years with the Jaguars and Jets.

— Brian Mitchell, Southwestern Louisiana: First player in NCAA history to pass for more than 5,000 yards and run for more than 3,000. A fifth-round pick by Washington in 1990, he moved to running back and became one of the best returners in NFL history, topping 2,000 all-purpose yards four times in five years.

— Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State: A third-round pick in the 2011 supplemental draft, he started 10 games at QB for the Raiders, with nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He moved to receiver and had brief stops with various teams; 2016 with Cleveland — 77 catches, 1,007 yards and four TDs — was by far the best season of his seven-year career.

— Antwaan Randle El, Indiana: The Big Ten’s Offensive Player of the Year in 2001 switched to receiver before the 2002 draft. Pittsburgh chose him in the second round. He caught 370 passes for 4,467 yards and 15 touchdowns in nine seasons with the Steelers and Washington. Also threw a TD pass in Super Bowl 40.

— Denard Robinson, Michigan: The Big Ten’s Offensive Player of the Year in 2010 switched to running back before the 2013 draft. Jacksonville selected him in the fifth round and listed him as a receiver so he could wear No. 16. He spent four seasons with the Jaguars, totaling 1,368 yards from scrimmage and scoring five times.

— Michael Robinson, Penn State: A dual-threat quarterback in 2005, Robinson was the Big Ten’s Offensive Player of the Year after throwing for 17 TDs and running for 11. He landed in San Francisco as a fourth-round pick and played fullback most of his eight-year career.

— Freddie Solomon, University of Tampa: “Fabulous Freddie” was the offensive MVP of the 1974 East-West Shrine game as a QB. Miami drafted him as a receiver in 1975, and in a game against Buffalo the following year, he scored touchdowns rushing, receiving and on a punt return. He later won two Super Bowls with San Francisco and finished an 11-year NFL career with 9,266 all-purpose yards and 63 touchdowns.

— Kordell Stewart, Colorado: “Slash” was a second-round pick by Pittsburgh in 1995. He began his pro career as a receiver but got a chance to play QB in 1997 and made the Pro Bowl in 2001. He started 87 games at QB, but one of the more memorable performances late in his 11-year career came as Baltimore’s emergency punter in 2004.

— Brad Smith, Missouri: A fourth-rounder by the Jets in 2006, Smith was a versatile, seldom-used receiver probably at his best as a returner and wildcat QB. He played nine seasons, five with the Jets, and finished with nearly 5,000 all-purpose yards and 14 TDs.

— Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech: Arizona drafted Thomas in the fourth round in 2014, taking a chance on a QB who set school passing records for yards and touchdowns. He made his NFL debut in relief of an injured Drew Stanton and finished 1 of 8 passing for 81 yards and a touchdown. Thomas switched to tight end two years later, playing with Buffalo and Detroit before landing in Washington, where he had a breakout 2020, catching 72 passes for 670 yards and six TDs.

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