How Greg Paulus Saved Syracuse Football

Adam Fier@haveNOfierCorrespondent IDecember 2, 2009

STATE COLLEGE, PA - SEPTEMBER 12: Quarterback Greg Paulus #2 of the Syracuse Orangemen rushes the ball during the second half against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium  September 12, 2009 in State College, Pennsylvania. Penn State won 28-7. (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)
Chris Gardner/Getty Images

Forget the record, forget the stats and forget the losing.

The short lived Greg Paulus era at Syracuse was a success.

At first glance, a 4-8 record sounds like more of the same for a program that could not get out of its own way since the reigns were handed to Greg Robinson five seasons ago.

After four years of regression, Robinson was shown he door in favor of Doug Marrone, a former Syracuse lineman and play-calling wizard for the high powered New Orleans Saints.

Marrone was given a roster of underachievers that lacked talent, but more importantly lacked leadership.

As enjoyable as it was watching Arthur Jones, among the teams lone bright spots in 2008, the football program lacked direction and lacked an identity.

Enter: Paulus.

After four years of playing basketball for national powerhouse Duke, Paulus found a loophole and decided to use it for a year of playing college football at national laughingstock Syracuse.

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Paulus, a hometown hero who played his high school football a short drive from the Carrier Dome and Christian Brothers Academy, came back to lend his hand (and right arm) to rebuilding a once proud program.

In the four years prior to his lone season under center at Syracuse, the football program won ten times.  Combined.

Paulus led Syracuse to a disappointing 4-8 record, however beyond the record and beyond his pedestrian stats (13 TD, 14 INT, 2025 yds, 67% COMP), he immediately changed the culture during his first start.

Playing behind a below average offensive line and a number one wide receiver who hadn't played a single snap the year before, Paulus had Syracuse within a few minutes of an opening night victory against Minnesota.

After throwing an interception in overtime which would eventually cost Syracuse the game, the mood in Central New York was filled with something they had grown unfamiliar with: hope.

Hope is a dangerous thing, as teams both professional and collegiate like to hide behind hope and use it to disguise mediocrity, however after four seasons of having nothing to cheer for, Paulus proved that his new football program was not going to be dead on arrival in 2009.

The season was filled with an unsightly amount of injuries (including potential first round draft pick and defensive star Arthur Jones) as well as the off the field and eventual loss of Williams, who had become Paulus' go-to guy and is himself a potential early round draft pick), yet despite roadblock after roadblock, Paulus had his team competing week in, week out.

There were ugly losses (Louisville), inspiring victories (Rutgers), and at season's end, Syracuse was a handful of breaks away from being 6-6 and bowl eligible in spite of all the adversity they dealt with.

Paulus, playing both his first and last year of collegiate football, may not have helped turn his team into an instant contender, but he certainly helped them regain respectability.

His leadership will undoubtedly have an impact on players like Ryan Nassib, who shared snaps with Paulus throughout the year and is likely to be the guy leading the offense in 2010.

At the end of the day, programs and teams are judged on wins and losses, and by that measuring stick, 2009 was a disappointment, filled with plenty of the mistakes and misfortune that have seemed to plague Syracuse during this recent stretch of futility.

Syracuse fans should be encouraged to look beyond the losing, and appreciate the efforts of a young man who played with heart and who made one of the more impressive transitions an athlete has ever made in recent history. 

Bold statement? Maybe, but you're talking about somebody who hadn't thrown a meaningful football pass in more than four years, all the while was going through the trials and tribulations of playing at one of the most prestigious basketball programs for arguably the most recognized and accomplished coach in the sport at the college level.

Syracuse fans should appreciate Greg Paulus for the hard work, dedication and commitment to winning he brought to a program that had lost its way and certainly lost hope.

Thanks to Paulus, they've found both.


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