Los Angeles Rams take Bartlett in 4th

By Dan Moran

Doug Bartlett became the second-highest National Football League draft choice in NIU history Tuesday when the Los Angeles Rams made him their fourth-round pick.

Teammates Clarence Vaughn and Todd Peat went in the eighth and 11th rounds, respectively. Vaughn went to the Washington Redskins as the 219th player chosen overall, while the St. Louis Cardinals made Peat the 285th player taken.

Only one NIU Huskie has ever gone sooner than Bartlett. John Spilis was a split end at NIU when the World Champion Green Bay Packers made him their third-round pick in the 1969 draft.

Bartlett, the 91st player chosen overall, was designated an outside linebacker by the Rams. NFL scouts had the former Huskie nose guard pegged at any linebacking or defensive line position.

Bartlett’s speed and quickness made him a hot commodity in the draft. Although his 40-yard dash time had been printed in the Star and other publications as being 4.85, Bartlett said that is not a fair indication of his speed.

“That’s where the weight issue comes into play. When I was a freshman, and up to like 260, was running anywhere from 4.75 to 4.8,” said Bartlett, who added his later speeds were under that. “Now that I know what I’m going to be doing, I’m allowed to drop a few pounds, and I think we’ll be looking at consistent 4.6’s.”

Bartlett said he will have no trouble moving his frame around at outside linebacker, which he termed an “agility position.”

“I’ve been moving like a live cat since I was a little kid, playing basketball and football, playing in the woods, jumping off of buildings, jumping through creeks, you name it,” Bartlett said.

Lik many football watchers, Bartlett, who had secured permission from his professor to take the day off, sat at home watching ESPN’s coverage of the opening rounds. The network ended it’s coverage before Bartlett’s selection.

“I was a little frustrated and perturbed, not because I wanted to be on TV, but because I thought I was a better player than that,” Bartlett said.

But the live coverage had not been over long when the call came around 3:45 p.m.

“I talked with a man in the personnel office, and then I talked directly with Coach (John) Robinson,” Bartlett said. “He asked me how much I weighed and I said around 256, and he told me to start eating more lettuce. Then he said not to worry because they know I can play football.”

The phone call ended months of speculation and preparation for Bartlett, a fifth-year senior. After the Huskies’ season-ending loss to Ohio last November, Bartlett was walking through the Columbus airport when he was asked what was ahead for him.

“I’ll be working hard, getting ready for the draft,” said Bartlett, who could be found this past winter running forwards, backwards and sideways at Chick Evans Field House.

After the moment finally arrived Tuesday, Bartlett said he “hopped on my bicycle and pumped out about five miles. It felt good just to get it over with.”

Bartlett said being drafted into the NFL was “like the third hurdle” since he came to NIU from Springfield’s Griffin High School in 1982.

He said the first hurdle was his adjustment to college football, while the second had more to do with just getting through college—aspects he said “don’t even have to be associated with football. Everyone goes through it.”

According to Bartlett, the next step for him is a Rams’ mini-camp next week followed by another the week after that. He added that before he goes anywhere, he has to make final arrangements on his exam schedule and graduation.

Vaughn had been contacted by the Redskin player/personnel director in the week before the draft, and was assured of at least a free-agent bid. Vaughn, who will work as a strong safety after playing linebacker at NIU, said the call came as a surprise.

“I was shocked, in a way,” Vaughn said. “It shows that I proved something already—I thought I’d go as a free agent. I still have a lot to prove, though.

“I know I can play the position. It’ll be like putting a fish back in water.”

Tuesday had almost become Wednesday by the time the 11th round got underway. Peat said he was contacted by a Cardinal representative around 11:30 p.m., but that Tampa Bay had given him a look much earlier.

“Tampa Bay started talking to me about the seventh round, but they didn’t call back,” said Peat, who added he was not put off by the Cardinals’ late selection. “They said they really liked me and that I’m the only offensive lineman they took. I got a chance to talk to (head coach) Gene Stallings and he said he wants to get me started right away with a playbook.”

Peat, a Champaign native, said he will be glad to play close to home. He now heads for a mini-camp May 19-23 and says he will be ready to bid for a spot on the roster.

“Like I said before, I’m confident of my ability to play football, and confident of being an offensive guard anywhere,” said Peat, who was told there are no set spots on the Cardinal line. “My goal is to start the first game. I would say that even if the Giants took me.”

The selections of Bartlett, Vaughn and Peat made a total of seven Huskies drafted into the NFL from the 1983 California Bowl Champion team. Scott Kellar, Curt Pardridge and Steve O’Malley made the grade last year, while Scott Bolzan was the first pick of the litter in 1984.