Less than an hour after “Mr. Irrelevant,” a title given to the 253rd and last player selected in the NFL draft, was chosen, the New York Jets signed former Tulsa Golden Hurricanes quarterback G.J. Kinne, Muscogee (Creek). Projected as a late round pick this year, Kinne, the first Tulsa QB to throw for more than 6,000 yards and rush for more 1,000 in his collegiate career, somehow slipped through, becoming an unrestricted free agent. The Jets jumped.
They’d also jumped a month before the draft, trading with the Denver Broncos to acquire the league’s most talked about player, QB Tim Tebow. As Tebowmania swept the Big Apple, Kinne quietly went about his business as he waited for draft day. “I’m really excited,” Kinne, the Golden Hurricane’s starting QB for the past three seasons, leading them to three consecutive bowl game appearances, told the Tulsa World. “I don’t know if I’m going to get drafted or not. I have a draftable grade by every team, but it’s whether or not the right situation happens in the draft.
As it turns out, Kinne created the right situation for himself. Although he received several other similar free-agent offers, he chose the Jets. Ironically, it was a former member of Gang Green who helped him land in New York. Former QB Chad Pennington, who was ungraciously dumped by the Jets in 2008 after they picked up aging star Brett Favre, mentored the young Creek and recommended he select the Jets, if he wasn’t drafted.
Pennington “was one of the quarterbacks I always looked up to,” Kinne told ESPN.com. “When we were together, he got me on the white board and drilled me. On the field, he really helped me with my mechanics. We really hit it off.” Plus, Pennington’s experience allowed him to give the young Native athlete sound advice. In particular, Pennington’s knowledge about Jets offensive coordinator Tony Sparano struck a chord with Kinne. “He knows Sparano really well and he said ‘Hey if you get the chance to work with coach Sparano, you should do it,” Kinne told Metro New York. “You’ll like playing for him.’”
Although the QB controversy between Jets incumbent starter Mark Sanchez and Tebow will continue to dominate the headlines when training camp opens in August, Kinne will be competing against returning 3rd stringer Greg McElroy for a spot on the roster. One NFL scout, who spoke to Metro New York on the condition of anonymity, likes Kinne’s chances.
“He does have a good enough arm to play in the NFL and his versatility means he can find a niche with the Jets in their Wildcat package. In many ways, he can make their team as their fourth quarterback,” the scout said. “If he does, then he essentially serves as the backup to Tebow.”
Kinne, too, is confident. “I always considered myself a rushing quarterback, but still a quarterback who can throw the ball,” Kinne said. “I can do anything they ask me to do. I’m coming in to compete with everyone to make the team.”
Look out Tebow.