Draft Spotlight: Andy Dalton

If you’re searching for experienced players in the 2011 NFL Draft, look no further than TCU’s proven winner at quarterback – the one who has set a record or two in his day.

Andy Dalton is an experienced pro prospect, a four-year starter and a Rose Bowl winner.

He’s TCU’s most prolific passer and that’s from surpassing famous alums like Davey O’Brien and Sammy Baugh in the record books. He went 42-7 in college and was a three-time bowl game MVP.

Because of his many intangibles, Dalton is one of the top quarterbacks being discussed in the upcoming draft. But he still feels like there are questions he needs to answer, mainly displaying improved arm strength.

Dalton mentioned the need to show teams his ability to make all the throw times on a few occasions during his combine press conference.

But those interested in acquiring Dalton’s services should take a long look at his winning percentage in addition to his throwing ability.

Dalton, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound quarterback, won often for the Horned Frogs, leading the non-BCS team to back-to-back BCS bowl game appearances.

Though Dalton experienced a difficult loss in the 2009 Fiesta Bowl, he led his teammates to a perfect 13-0 season in 2010 which culminated in a Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin.

“I was able to accomplish a lot during my time at TCU,” Dalton said. “There wasn’t a better way to end it than to win the Rose Bowl.”

He was at his best as a senior, BCS win included. Dalton set single-season school records, completing 66.1-percent of his passes and throwing 28 touchdown passes. His 2,857 passing yards were a personal best as well.

Such experiences give Dalton confidence that he can achieve similar success in the NFL.

“I understand the game really well,” he said. “I think it’s the way the offense was for me and TCU put a lot on me. I knew a lot which allowed them to put a lot on me.”

Besides mental capacity, Dalton believes his attitude allows him to be a winning quarterback.

“I can’t stand to lose,” the back-to-back Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year winner said. “All my hard work is to win ball games.”

It’s not surprising Dalton’s mindset intrigues the 49ers, who were represented at his pro day most prominently by coach Jim Harbaugh.

The new 49ers head man is quite familiar with the prospect, having coached against Dalton twice in college. Harbaugh’s Stanford teams lost both those games.

TCU’s rise as a football program was no coincidence. It was a direct reflection of the strides made by No. 14 under center.

“I’ve been put in every situation,” Dalton said. “Hopefully teams see that I’ve played in a lot of games and won a lot of them.”

But how much was Dalton under center? Not as often as most pro-style college offenses. However, it’s something he’s working to improve prior to the 2011 NFL Draft along with speed and arm strength.

Dalton knows there are areas of his game he can improve, but he’s not searching for criticisms from the media.

“I don’t read into any of that stuff,” he said. “Like you’ve heard for a long time, one team has to like you. It doesn’t matter who says what. I feel like I have a strong arm and can make all the throws. I’m not focused on that stuff that anyone is writing.”

Ever since he began his football career as the kicker on his sixth-grade team in Katy, Texas, Dalton has been passionate about the game of football. His experiences in college only cemented his love for the sport.

“I’ve had to go through a lot and I’ve grown a lot,” Dalton said. “I’ve had to handle some adversity.

“Nothing seemed new to me, so hopefully that will help with this whole transition.”

Dalton entered college as a 185-pound, wide-eyed local kid. He redshirted in 2006 and became the Horned Frogs starter for four seasons. Dalton’s play, combined with a top-ranked defense enabled TCU to become a national title contender in 2010.

But Dalton has moved on from the Rose Bowl glory and is entrenched in draft preparation. With so many teams in search of quarterback help, Dalton has been visiting with a large number of teams. It seems like everyone wants to know more about him.

Dalton’s optimistic he can showcase everything he’s worked on since the college season concluded.

“I’m going to do whatever it takes to win ball games and to be a winner and to push myself to be the best I can be,” he said. “That’s all I can do. If I can go out and be the best then that’s all I can do.”

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