It’s been quite a journey for J.P. Losman — from Venice High quarterback to a starting position in the National Football League.
He went to UCLA, transferred to Tulane, became a first round draft choice of the Buffalo Bills, backed up veteran Drew Bledsoe, suffered a broken leg and last week became the Bills’ No. 1 guy.
The team’s management made a decision to release Bledsoe and elevate the inexperienced but promising Losman to starting status.
“We took a young quarterback last year that we like a lot and we have to find ways to get him into a football game,’’ said Bills general manager Tom Donahue.
“We’re trying to go forward and we think our best opportunity is with J.P. at quarterback.”
Bledsoe wasn’t unemployed for long. He signed with the Dallas Cowboys.
A key factor in the Bills’ decision was mobility. Bledsoe has accomplished a lot as a passer but doesn’t move nearly as well as Losman, who regularly had 100-yard rushing games along with his passing in college.
Losman is 6-foot-3 but swift. He executes roll-out plays well and can escape a rush. However, he’ll have to learn when to run and when to avoid tacklers. The broken leg he suffered came on a running play in practice.
The Bills were determined to draft him but had to do some maneuvering when other teams selecting late in the first round targeted Losman, too.
The Bills gave the Cowboys a first, second and fifth round choice in order to obtain Losman.
Before Losman became known nationally, he excelled as a football player on the Westside. The first time I saw him was in a game at University High. He rolled to the right, escaped rushers and threw a touchdown pass. Then he scrambled for a 40-yard gain on a broken play.
His talent was so evident that when he went to a UCLA football camp he was immediately offered a scholarship.
But he didn’t stay long. There were reports that Bruin coaches thought his footwork was poor, and other reports that he wanted to operate from a shotgun formation where his running ability would be maximized.
In any case, Coach Bob Toledo believed a freshman should wait his turn. Cory Paus was the starter.
Soon Losman decided to leave and the only schools he considered were ones who used the shotgun — Purdue, San Diego State and Tulane.
At Tulane, he did what he set out to do – had a productive college career and became attractive to NFL teams.
Like any new NFL starting quarterback he figures to encounter growing pains. But the path he chose and his arrival as an NFL starter validate what was evident five years ago — that he posseses the talent to play the game at the highest level.
As for UCLA, Toledo was ultimately replaced by Karl Dorrell and the Bruins’ program has fallen far behind USC, its cross-town rival and national champion the last two seasons.Had Losman stayed and given UCLA an NFL-caliber quarterback the gap between the schools might not have become so wide.