Pitt's Palko, Akron's Getsy ready for NFL
Perhaps it was inevitable that their careers, so intertwined as they were, have come to this: Luke Getsy and Tyler Palko at the same place in the same position.
They completed storybook high school careers - Steel Valley's Getsy as the WPIAL's most prolific passer, West Allegheny's Palko as its greatest winner - by matriculating to Pitt, where they competed against each other for the starting quarterback job in 2004.
Now, on the eve of the NFL Draft, Akron's Getsy and Pitt's Palko are possible second-day selections who don't necessarily meet pro football prototypes but are counting on their lifetime of playing the position, their performances under pressure and the tradition of Western Pennsylvania quarterbacks who became NFL greats to carry them.
"They're tough guys, gritty performers, they're winners and they're going to make contributions to the teams that take them," said Carnegie-based agent Ralph Cindrich, who represents both Palko and Getsy and had sixth-round pick Bruce Gradkowski of Seton-La Salle last year. "Both Tyler and Luke are game players. They perform on the field. There's no doubt with each of these guys that, if they're in the right circumstances, they could be major contributors."
If the NFL Draft were based on their success as first-year starters, we might be talking about Palko and Getsy as first-round picks instead of Louisiana State's JaMarcus Russell and Notre Dame's Brady Quinn.
Palko outdueled Getsy for the starting job in 2004, then passed for 3,067 yards and 24 touchdowns, becoming the first player to throw five touchdown passes at Notre Dame in an upset victory of the Irish and leading the Panthers past West Virginia for their first Big East Conference championship and BCS berth in the Fiesta Bowl.
"When you look at some things he did, what he did against Notre Dame two years ago," said NFL.com analyst Gil Brandt, "that's what you try to look at in players, some spots where they're good."
Getsy transferred to Akron, where he passed for 3,455 yards and 23 touchdowns to lead the Zips to a pair of firsts, a Mid-American Conference championship and Division I-A bowl appearance. He had three 400-yard games, orchestrated a game-winning drive in the MAC title game against Northern Illinois - where he threw his school-record fifth touchdown with 10 seconds left - and passed for a school-record 455 yards against Memphis in the Motor City Bowl in '05.
"I think the biggest thing is you go back to game tape," Getsy said. "I accomplished a lot at Akron. I played against good competition. I think I showed a lot of poise and made big plays. The offense got me ready to play a professional style of offense."
Both had to endure and adapt to coaching changes the following season. Dave Wannstedt replaced Walt Harris at Pitt, bringing in Matt Cavanaugh and his West Coast offense for Palko to learn. Getsy had his third offensive coordinator in as many years when Akron replaced Jim Pry with Joe Moorhead, a Central Catholic graduate.
Their statistics dipped, their flaws became more noticeable and their NFL Draft status dropped. Both still had their moments, though, as Palko led the nation in pass efficiency much of his senior season and Getsy led Akron to a 20-17 victory at North Carolina State on Sept. 9.
Neither Getsy (6-foot-2 1/2, 223 pounds) nor Palko (6-1, 217) shined at the NFL Combine in February, where quarterbacks are judged primarily by their physical measurements, accuracy and arm strength.
Brandt sees Palko - who has drawn the interest of the Steelers and Baltimore Ravens - as a late second-day pick and projects Getsy as a likely free agent.
"(Palko) has pretty good footwork, good accuracy - which is very important - and real good touch. He knows how to manage a game," said Brandt, a longtime Dallas Cowboys player personnel director. "I don't think (Getsy) had great arm strength or great mobility, but I think somebody will bring him in. The thing he's got going for him is he's a very smart guy."
Both Getsy and Palko are smart enough to know their respective futures will be determined not by the draft, but rather how they perform at a team's camp. They hope to share another milestone in their careers by becoming the latest in a succession of Western Pennsylvania players who were quarterbacks from the cradle to the NFL.
"I guess our careers were pretty similar - we were going after one job - but this is something totally different," Getsy said. "I know that we both will go out there and do well because we played in offenses that got us ready for the next level."
Sports writer Kevin Gorman's predictions for where WPIAL graduates will be taken in this weekend's NFL Draft. (Name, position, high school and college.)
- Projected first rounders
- Darrelle Revis, CB, Aliquippa/Pitt
- Paul Posluszny, LB, Hopewell/Penn State
- Steve Breaston, WR, Woodland Hills/Michigan
- Tyler Palko, QB, West Allegheny/Pitt
- Luke Getsy, QB, Steel Valley/Akron
- Dan Mozes, C, Washington/West Virginia
- Bob Whitaker, OT, Mt. Lebanon/Kansas
- Kevin "Boo" McLee, LB, Uniontown/West Virginia
- Jason Capizzi, OT, Pine-Richland/IUP
- Chris Morgan, RB, Woodland Hills/IUP
Projected first day picks
Projected possible second-day picks
Projected free agents