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12 Drew Bledsoe

HE'S PRETTY cool, this guy Bledsoe. He's 6 ft. 5 in., 230 pounds,
and he stands in the pocket, head on a swivel, patting the ball the
way you might pat a small dog, dodging people who would like to rip
his head off, calmly firing the ball with the force and accuracy of a
high-caliber rifle.
Football is just fun for this kid from Walla Walla, Wash. Would-be
tacklers are no big deal; the only trouble with the NFL is that there
are these darn coaches who yell at you when things don't go right --
when, for instance, you tossed one of those 27 interceptions you
threw in 1994. But, heck, 400 of your throws last season were
completed to your own men.
Drew Bledsoe, who was the first player taken in the 1993 NFL
draft, just likes to get out on the field and see what's going to
happen. ''He was born calm,'' says his mother, Barbara. ''He is a
steady, easygoing, genuinely nice person.'' Of course, that's Ma
talking, but everybody else seems to agree with her. And that
includes Bledsoe's tightly wound New England Patriot coach, Bill
Parcells, who would sometimes like to wring the 23-year-old's neck
for making happy-go-lucky mistakes. Parcells likes ball-control
offenses, and his own pass-wacky Pats made a nervous wreck of him
this past season.
Indeed, Bledsoe threw the ball 691 times in '94, far more than any
other quarterback in the league, and his 4,555 yards passing was also
more than anyone else's. But those pesky interceptions . . . well,
they led the league too.
Bledsoe intends to work on that flaw, but for now, geez, can't
Parcells and company chill out? ''All the coaches are so uptight,''
he marvels. ''You almost never see me fired up and ticked off. So the
nice thing is that when I'm on the field, I'm in that sanctuary. Out
there, everything's under my control.''
Is it ever. His arm is so strong and his motion so effortless that
it is hard to appreciate his skills without catching his passes or
trying to defend against them. Just ask the Miami Dolphin defensive
backs who gave up 421 yards and four passing TDs to Bledsoe on
opening day this season. Or the Buffalo Bill DBs who surrendered 380
yards and three TDs the next week.
''He's a clinic in how to throw,'' says his dad, Mac, who was one
of his high school coaches. ''You have to see it at field level to
appreciate it. It's not his arm, it's his body -- the arm is just
along for the ride. Watch him throw an out toward you. I mean, it's
coming. It whistles.''
Preparing now for his third season in the bigs, Bledsoe has
already joined the core group of NFL offensive stars, the guys who
change the game plans of opposing teams. He finds that amazing. ''I'm
definitely aware that I'm young,'' he says. ''I do think I've matured
a lot, but people's expectations and concept of who I am fail to take
into account the fact I'm only a few years from being a teenager.''
He thinks about that, too. And then he laughs.
Bledsoe knows that he can smoke it on the football field and that
he's getting paid some really large bucks on account of it, age be
damned. ''Money was never a big part of my NFL dream,'' he says.
''Just playing was. When I was living in a $250 apartment and driving
a Volkswagen back at Washington State, I was content as heck. I've
had a lifestyle change. But what I do -- that hasn't changed at
Which is deliver the goods.