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Pisarkiewicz GetsNew Chance in CFL

By
ROB RAINS

ST. LOUIS -- Steve Pisarkiewicz is setting his sights a little lower now than he did on that day in 1977 when he was the first quarterback selected in the National Football League draft.

When he was chosen in the first round by the St. Louis Cardinals, Pisarkiewicz thought he was headed for a promising career in the NFL with his hometown team. That dream didn't last long.

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Pisarkiewicz rode the Cardinals' bench for three seasons before he was released during training camp in 1980. He has since found his way to Canada, where he is trying to catch on as a backup quarterback with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

'I know I'm fighting an uphill battle,' Pisarkiewicz said in a telephone interview. 'But all I need is to get a little bit of exposure and some playing time to brush up on my mechanics.'

Pisarkiewicz is one of three quarterbacks in the Blue Bombers' camp. Others are Dieter Brock, a two-time winner of the Canadian Football League's most valuable player award, and Mark Jackson, a former quarterback at Baylor, who was the backup last year.

The three have shared playing time in Winnipeg's first two exhibition games, a 22-0 win over Calgary and a 25-11 win June 16 over British Columbia.

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In the first game, Pisarkiewicz completed 7 of 16 passes for 75 yards with no touchdowns. Against British Columbia, he was 7-of-9 for 77 yards with one touchdown. He was not intercepted in either game.

'Things are going pretty well,' he said. 'The coaches have really helped me and I've really learned a lot. Things are off on a perfect start.'

Pisarkiewicz, who set several passing records at the University of Missouri, did not have many perfect days in St. Louis. Even though he played sparingly, Pisarkiewicz was a central figure in two coaching changes.

When he was drafted, veteran Jim Hart was well-entrenched as the Cardinals' starting quaterback. Don Coryell, then the coach, had met with Pisarkiewicz a month before the draft and told him there was no way St. Louis would pick a quarterback.

'I knew that was one place I wasn't going,' Pisarkiewicz said. 'Coryell knew they needed defensive backs and linebackers. Then I was drafted, and George Boone (the team's director of scouting) told me I was the guy they wanted from the beginning.

'I should have taken that as an omen. Don didn't say five words to me the whole year.'

Times didn't get any better for Pisarkiewicz after Coryell fled St. Louis at the end of the 1977 season. Bud Wilkinson was named coach and when Wilkinson refused 'suggestions' from team president Bill Bidwill to play Pisarkiewicz during the tail end of a losing season in 1979, Wilkinson was fired.

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Pisarkiewicz did play out the season, but was unceremoniously released during training camp the next year.

'I didn't really learn anything from the St. Louis organization, either from the coaches or the veteran players,' Pisarkiewicz said. 'Had I gone somewhere else where they really wanted a quarterback, I think a lot of things would have happened differently.

'Nobody there (in St. Louis) would teach anything to a young guy. You had to pick things up on your own. They didn't really give me the time of day.'

Pisarkiewicz, now 28, believes the three wasted years in St. Louis have hurt his development as a professional quarterback but have not destroyed his chances.

'The opportunity is good here,' Pisarkiewicz said. 'There's talk that Dieter Brock might leave to go to the Birmingham team in the United States Football League, because that's his hometown.

'I see an opportunity where I can learn the system for a year or so and step in and play. If not here, I see a lot of openings for quarterbacks coming up in the CFL and in the USFL. There's a handful of reasons for me to think something will open up.'

Pisarkiewicz said he has enjoyed the transition to the more wide-open Canadian game, which features 12 players on a side, a wider and longer field, a bigger ball and only three downs to move 10 yards.

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'It's really tough to have a ball-control offense and you can't really afford any incompletions,' he said. 'The quality of the game is very good.

'The type of offense we have is a lot of short sprint-outs, a little rollout and a lot of play action. We do a lot of drop back in the pocket, read and throw. These are things I can do.

'I know what I can do. I've seen the caliber of the other quarterbacks. I know I can play with them.'

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