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Elliott hopes to pass first NFL test

After setting a college record for touchdown passes, LO's Brett Elliott was bypassed in this year's NFL draft but the San Diego Chargers eagerly signed him as a free agent
by: Vern Uyetake, Lake Oswego’s Brett Elliott gets in a little throwing practice last week before heading off to the San Diego Chargers’ pre-season football camp. Elliott, who was an undrafted free agent out of Linfield College, is just one of four quarterbacks on the Chargers’ roster, so there’s a good chance that he’ll at least make the team’s practice squad.

With a little luck and lot of hard work, Lake Oswego's Brett Elliott could become the next Dan Fouts, the most prolific passer in San Diego Chargers history. But it's unfair to think that far ahead. Right now, Elliott is just focused on making the Chargers' roster.

'It's a long shot as an undrafted free agent. But they like me,' the Linfield quarterback said as he prepared for his first day of summer practice in the NFL.

Luck worked against Elliott a bit in 2003 when a broken wrist cost him his starting quarterback job at the University of Utah. Because of that injury, Alex Smith wound up being Utah's starting quarterback for the rest of 2003 and all of 2004 and he ended up being the first pick in the pro draft a year ago.

Anyone who has followed Elliott's career couldn't help but think that could have been Elliott instead.

The former Lake Oswego star then decided to transfer to Linfield where he set a single-season college record for touchdown passes; and he won a national championship in the process. They were impressive achievements, to say the least, but apparently not impressive enough to convince any NFL team to draft Elliott in April.

Yet, things worked out OK for Elliott, who was signed by San Diego as a free agent a few days later. It might have been the best fit possible for the 2000 LOHS graduate.

Heading into the new season, the Chargers might have the most unsettled quarterback situation in the NFL. During the off-season, the Chargers opted not to re-sign Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees to a lucrative contract extension and let him sign with New Orleans instead. That means that former first-round pick Phillip Rivers will be this year's starter, even though he has seen only limited action in the pros.

To replace Rivers as the No. 1 backup, the Chargers signed free agent A.J. Feeley, a former University of Oregon star. Then, during the college draft in April, San Diego used one of its picks to take quarterback Charlie Whitehurst of Clemson.

If Elliott hopes to make San Diego's regular season roster, he'll probably have to beat out Whitehurst, which is not out of reason. The worst-case scenario, it seems, is that Elliott would wind up as the No. 4 signal caller and be on San Diego's practice squad most of the season.

'I think the practice squad is my best shot,' Elliott said as he prepared for one of his final workouts before heading to camp.

During the team's spring rookie camp, Elliott said he got a lot of reps with the offense and he was pleased with the way he performed.

'I think I performed pretty impressively for a free agent,' he said. 'But I didn't get many reps with the veterans' during a full team camp later on.

Still, Elliott said he wouldn't trade his early pro experiences for anything.

'I'm having a blast,' he said. 'I'm trying to enjoy every minute I have.'

To give himself his best shot with the Chargers, Elliott spent most of the summer getting himself into possibly the best shape of his life. Part of that time was spent in the weight room where he's added a noticeable amount of muscle to his upper body, especially the biceps.

Most of the rest of the time was spent perfecting his throwing accuracy, and he was already completing nearly 70 percent of his passes at Linfield. At a recent throwing session, every one of his short and medium-range passes were placed perfectly so the receiver could make the catch and head upfield in one motion. On his long throws, very few required any type of adjustment on the receiver's part.

At Linfield, Elliott is probably best remembered for all of long touchdown throws. But that's not necessarily why the Chargers came calling.

'We can all throw long at this level,' Elliott said. 'It's all about learning the offense and getting the ball to the right spot.'