Adrian McPherson has no regrets about past

adell@bradenton.comMay 4, 2014 

BRADENTON -- Adrian McPherson doesn't dwell on what his life might have been if he could go back and change the past.

The only person in Florida history to be named both Mr. Football and Mr. Basketball, McPherson says he is happy with his life, though he didn't reach the goals so many predicted for him when he walked through the graduation line at Southeast in 2001.

McPherson, who turns 31 on Thursday, still displays the talent that makes him a unique athlete, and knowledgeable pro football people say a few breaks could get him a spot on an NFL roster.

At 6-foot-4 and 228 pounds, McPherson re-invented the quarterback position in the Arena Football League last season with the Tampa Bay Storm, setting multiple rushing records for quarterbacks.

One of the people he impressed is former Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks, who was elected to the NFL Hall of Fame this year and is president of the Storm.

"Adrian has the talent to play in the NFL," Brooks said.

"When he played for us last year, he was definitely on the path to do that. We were getting calls from NFL teams. Unfortunately he got injured and it didn't work out."

McPherson signed with Calgary of the Canadian Football League in January.

Before joining the Storm for the 2013 season, he spent five years with perennial Canadian Football League powerhouse Montreal, backing up Anthony Calvillo -- considered the greatest quarterback in that league's history.

Calgary was one of several CFL teams that contacted McPherson last season, along with Chicago and Dallas from the NFL. Calgary was the only team that stuck with him after his injury, which eventually required sports hernia surgery.

"Adrian's athleticism is second to none. His short term accuracy has improved and his decision making has gotten better," Brooks said. "He knows when to run, doesn't do it wildly and keeps his eyes down field."

Ironically, the same year McPherson left Montreal, Calvillo suffered some injuries that led to his retirement after the 2013 season.

"I have no regrets about leaving Montreal when I did. I wanted to play football where playing football was fun, and I had a ton of fun last year knowing that I was going to be the guy behind center on game day," McPherson said. "I was able to show people I could still play, and doing it in front of my family and friends meant a lot to me. You sit behind somebody for five years and people forget you can play the game."

McPherson set the AFL on fire from his start with the Storm.

Though he missed the final seven games of the season, he set the AFL single season rushing record for a quarterback. He set the Storm single season overall rushing record with 428 yards, which is extremely difficult because of the small, narrow field.

Against Pittsburgh, he connected on 90.9 percent of his passes, setting the Storm's single-game completion percentage record in the process. McPherson finished the season with 59 touchdown passes and only five interceptions.

"If he didn't get hurt, I like to think we would've won the Arena Bowl," Brooks said. "He has a good demeanor and a great approach to the game. I don't believe any of that stuff that happened when he was at FSU matters to NFL people. He is a grown man now and has moved on with his life. A lot of the scouts I talked to said they were glad to hear he was still playing."

The Storm was 7-4 under McPherson, and did not win a game after he went out, losing seven-straight.

"If Adrian had not gotten hurt, I would still be head coach of the Storm, no doubt in my mind," said Dave Ewert, now an assistant with the Arizona Rattlers. "He was able to run like no other quarterback in our league because he's bigger than most tailbacks, is chiseled, and can throw. He creates mismatches and isn't afraid to get hit."

McPherson hopes he can thrive in the CFL on a field that's much wider than the NFL, allowing him to utilize his skills.

"Sometimes I watch myself on video and I don't know how I did that. But if you give me a lane, I have the ability to find a crease and make things happen. The CFL fits my style because it is so wide," he said.

A fifth round draft pick by New Orleans in 2005, McPherson has always had the NFL in the back of his mind. Now, it's not his chief concern.

"I'm just focused on the CFL. I don't think about the NFL, but do I think I can play in the league? Absolutely," he said. "I've learned to stop putting a plan together in something you can't control. I just tell myself, 'give 100 percent, and if it happens, it happens.'"

One of the most celebrated high school quarterbacks in state history, McPherson was on a path that seemed destined for the NFL when he signed with Florida State in 2001. He left after his sophomore year amid criminal allegations that were never proven.

McPherson takes full responsibility for his actions, but said his mind set is different now, and he surrounds himself with positive-thinking people who do the right things.

"I feel like I'm a good place right now. If my life had been different, I would take things for granted that I don't anymore," he said. "If I had not gotten in trouble, I believe I would've played in the NFL and been a top-10 pick," McPherson said. "Now I surround myself with great people like Derrick Brooks. They are good people, and everywhere I'm trying to go, they have the knowledge to get there."

Ewert agrees with Brooks that McPherson has the qualities teams are looking for in the NFL, including his demeanor.

"I think he can play in the NFL, but you just don't know if someone will give him a chance," Ewert said. "If I was an NFL owner I would. He can create so many mismatches because of his size and can throw the ball. He can run and is very physical. He is also a first-class individual."

About four months ago, McPherson started training a couple of local kids and his list of pupils continued to multiply, to the point where he now has about 50 kids. It led to the creation of the McPherson Athletic Compound, which he currently operates out of Saint Stephen's Episcopal School.

He says it will be an all-encompassing program that will take into account everything that would enable an athlete to reach their potential in, and out, of sports.

"I wanted to build something where you could can get the X's and O's of a specific position, and teach them about mental conditioning and other things like diet that will help them." McPherson said he has a staff in place and expects the program to launch full-time in early June. He will release the details shortly before.

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