Paulus back on old turf
By John Kekis
SYRACUSE, N.Y. ó It didn’t take Greg Paulus long to impress new Syracuse coach Doug Marrone, and it’s easy to understand why.
Listening to the former Duke point guard speak, he could pass for a cadet at West Point, Mike Krzyzewski’s alma mater. That’s a common trait in many of Krzyzewski’s players and one Marrone cherishes.
“Yes sir,” Paulus said with a confident smile when asked if he was progressing as rapidly as he had hoped after not playing football for four years. “We’ll just keep trying to get better, keep trying to improve, just be more comfortable with the system. I’m just trying to learn to the best of my ability.”
Marrone didn’t see Paulus throw a pass in person until the team’s first practice on Aug. 10. Less than a week later, Paulus became the starter.
“He’s played, he’s thrown a football, he’s been an athlete, he’s made quick decisions, and he’s done a lot of things that correlate to the game of football for the last four years,” Marrone said. “For the people who question it, they haven’t been out on the field to see it.”
Former Syracuse quarterback Don McPherson was one who greeted Marrone’s decision with skepticism.
“I’m a little bit of an old school football guy,” McPherson said. “I know that no matter how many national championships you can play in in basketball, big games you can play in, no one’s punching you in the mouth, and there’s no fear of anyone punching you in the mouth. But I think it’s kind of like riding a bicycle ó once you do it once and you get back on it, you go, ‘OK, I remember this.’ Once he gets hit in the mouth, he’ll get used to that part.
“I think he’ll have success. It’s hard to tell how quickly that success will come. It’s just a matter of how quickly he can knock off the dust and get back into the form he was in four years ago.”
The season opens at home against Minnesota in less than two weeks.
“I understand that physicality is part of the game,” Paulus said Wednesday. “That’s the way it is. I’ve tried to do the best I could in a short amount of time to gain some weight and some muscle. I understand the challenges that lie ahead, and I’ve done the best I can to prepare for those.”
So far, the experiment remains on track.
“That guy improves every single day,” defensive tackle Arthur Jones said. “It’s amazing just to see a guy that played basketball for four years and just jumps back in there. If I didn’t know anything, I would have thought he played football for three or four years. To see him grow from the beginning of summer to now is unbelievable. He’s going to shock a lot of people.”