By Bill Coats
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
05/11/2010

Of the three quarterbacks who took part in the Rams' rookie minicamp last week, only one passed for more than 10,000 yards in college. And it wasn't Sam Bradford, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.

Thaddeus Lewis piled up 10,065 yards through the air in his four seasons as Duke's starter under coach David Cutcliffe, a noted developer of quarterbacks.

Lewis was invited to the NFL scouting combine but wasn't drafted, his 6-foot height the probable deterrent. Still, the Rams had checked out Lewis during his senior season and signed him to a free-agent contract.

According to offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, Lewis showed at the recent three-day minicamp that the team made a wise move.


"I thought Thad did a terrific job," Shurmur said. "He's obviously been trained as a quarterback in a passing style, and I thought he showed up well. He's got some talent."

Bradford and veteran A.J. Feeley not necessarily in that order at this point appear to be in place as the Rams' top two quarterbacks. After the release last week of Mike Reilly, who spent the last month of the 2009 season with the team, the only other QBs on the roster are Lewis and Keith Null.

Because of injuries to Marc Bulger and Kyle Boller, Null, a sixth-round draftee last year, started the last four games of his rookie season. He's probably in line for the No. 3 job but could face a challenge from Lewis.

"I like (Lewis') command in the huddle, and he throws the ball well," coach Steve Spagnuolo said after the five-practice minicamp. "He's got some things about him. I think he's a pretty interesting guy right now."

A dual threat quarterback at Miami Lakes High in Hialeah, Fla., Lewis got scholarship offers from Duke, South Florida, Texas Christian and Pittsburgh.

"I took all four of my visits, and Duke is the place I felt most comfortable at," Lewis said. "They gave me the opportunity to come in and compete for the starting job."

An added bonus was the presence of Cutcliffe. He tutored both Manning brothers in college, first Peyton at Tennessee, where Cutcliffe was offensive coordinator, and later Eli at Mississippi, where Cutcliffe was head coach.

"That's his pride and joy, the two Manning brothers," Lewis said. "He'd show you old film of them and just let you know what he expects out of you. He'd also tell you that you could be as good as those guys if you work as hard as those guys."

Lewis became Cutcliffe's starter on the third series of his first game as a freshman. Over four seasons, he completed 61 percent of his passes while throwing for 67 touchdowns, with 40 interceptions. Lewis' passing-yards total is second in Atlantic Coast Conference history to the 13,484 amassed by North Carolina State's Philip Rivers, who now quarterbacks the San Diego Chargers.

The three-day draft was trying for Lewis. "I didn't know what to expect, to be honest," he said. But he refused to become overly concerned as the rounds clicked by.

Cutcliffe "always told me you can't worry about the things you can't control," Lewis said. "And that's one thing I couldn't control, getting calls from teams."

Finally, the Rams dialed his number, during the seventh round. "They said, 'Do you want to come in as a free agent?'" Lewis said. "So, this was the team that gave me my shot, and I feel loyalty to this program."

Unlike Bradford, who took many of his snaps in the shotgun formation at Oklahoma, Lewis ran a pro-style system at Duke. "So it's not too hard to adjust" to the Rams' offense, Lewis said. "Just the terminology is a lot different."

Next up is the start of organized team activities May 18 at Rams Park. "I'm going to just take it one day at a time, one step at a time," Lewis said. "I just want an opportunity to compete, an opportunity to get a shot at the NFL. Hopefully it works out for the best."

After a pause, Lewis laughed and added, "Hey, maybe I could be Sam's backup. Who knows?"