Drafted to play wide receiver, Vikings' Webb still behind center
EDEN PRAIRIE (AP) -- With a red jersey on his back and a big smile on his face, Joe Webb is a quarterback again.
The Minnesota Vikings drafted the athletic Webb out of Alabama-Birmingham in the sixth round back in April with designs on turning him into a receiver. Then they asked him to throw some passes at a rookie camp earlier this month and must have liked what they saw.
"It feels great to get back under center," Webb said Wednesday after practice. "It's been a long time since I've been at quarterback. I've been working out at receiver most of the time throughout this whole process. It's great."
Webb played quarterback for most of his career at UAB, throwing for more than 5,700 yards and 37 touchdowns in his career. But after his senior season, he immediately started to work on making the transition to receiver, and he played the position at the Senior Bowl to show scouts what he could do.
Even his college coach, Neil Callaway, thought Webb was a better fit catching passes in the NFL than throwing them.
"I think he's got a great future as a receiver," Callaway said right after Webb was drafted.
Callaway coached Bo Jackson, Matthew Stafford and Shaun Alexander in college and said Webb belongs right there with those stars when it comes to athleticism.
A look at Webb's performance at UAB's pro day in April backs that up.
Webb's 11½-foot broad jump and 3.91-second time in the 20-yard shuttle run were better than any player's numbers at the NFL combine. He also did 21 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press and had a vertical jump of 42½ inches, both of which were better than any receiver at the combine.
His 4.43 second 40-yard dash time would have been good for fifth among receivers at the combine, but looks even better considering his 6-foot-4, 220-pound frame.
Then there is the YouTube video in which Webb takes three steps and leaps over a stack of seven blue dummies that are about six feet high, a jaw-dropping feat.
"I've been checking it out every now and then. The views keep going higher and higher," Webb said. "I didn't expect it to get that popular."
He also didn't expect to be playing quarterback in the NFL. He figured he might get a few snaps in a wildcat formation, but mostly concentrated on perfecting his route running and making the transition to receiver.
But during Wednesday's practice, Webb called plays in the huddle, took snaps under center and ran the offense the same way veterans Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels did.
Vikings coach Brad Childress said he can already see that Webb has an "aptitude to be a quarterback."
"We went and drafted him as an athlete, but if you go back and look at the UAB numbers, he put up outstanding numbers," Childress said. "So he knows what he's doing moving around back there."
Last year, Webb also rushed for 1,427 yards and 11 TDs. He played receiver as a sophomore and caught 30 passes for 459 yards and three TDs. For now, though, it appears that the Vikings will keep him at quarterback.
"We're going to continue on with repping him at quarterback," Childress said. "It's not like he's going to go out and play quarterback one play and go out and play receiver on the next play. We're trying to get him immersed in the system."
Webb chuckled when he was given the playbook -- "It's like a dictionary," he said -- and has been taking advice from Jackson and Rosenfels. But he's hoping to have the chance to learn under one of the best to ever play the position.
"Tarvaris Jackson and Sage are doing a great job with me, teaching me the ropes," Webb said. "In the NFL it's totally different from college. I'm learning all I can right now. Hopefully if Brett Favre comes back I'll learn even more."
Webb was so giddy about one of his idols that he admitted to getting excited just seeing Favre's locker at team headquarters. He took a picture of it and can't wait to meet Favre if he chooses to return for a second season in Minnesota.
"Even when I got drafted, the first thing I thought about was man, Brett Favre's going to be there," Webb said. "It's like a dream come true. But we'll see what happens."