- The Washington Times - Monday, April 28, 2003

When Gibran Hamdan arrived at Redskin Park on April4 for a local college workout, the Potomac native figured he'd be lucky to get more than a few minutes of time with Steve Spurrier.
What Hamdan wound up getting was a personalized, two-hour quarterbacking clinic from the Redskins coach that left the 22-year-old feeling like "one of the luckiest guys in the D.C. area that day."
"To be in the presence of somebody who has been known to do great things with quarterbacks, it's just a fortunate thing for anybody," he said. "It was almost like being a painter and getting to work with Van Gogh for a day."
Hamdan is going to get to spend many more days learning from the master, because the University of Indiana quarterback left such an impression on Spurrier during that brief workout that the "Ball Coach" made him his seventh-round draft pick yesterday.
Not bad for a heretofore anonymous lifelong Redskins fan who started all of eight games in his college career.
"Obviously, I've come out of nowhere," the 6-foot-4, 219-pound Hamdan said. "In the back of my mind, I was hoping this would come. But I would have by no means been disappointed if it hadn't."
It was no secret that the Redskins were looking to draft a developmental quarterback, someone who could learn the ropes and grow into the position.
But few could have guessed this would be Spurrier's guy, especially not when Washington's final pick of the draft came up yesterday afternoon and names like Ken Dorsey, Brad Banks and Jason Gesser remained there for the taking.
Those three might have had national exposure, but none had two hours alone on the field with Spurrier. In the end, that's all the coach needed to be sold on Hamdan.
"He's a good learner. He really accepted coaching extremely well," Spurrier said. "We think he's got a lot of potential. He looks like a pro quarterback."
So how did the Redskins find out about him?
Though he was born in San Diego, Hamdan spent most of his childhood in Kuwait. He might still be there today if not for a vacation his family took to San Diego when he was 10. While there, Iraq invaded his home country, setting off the first Gulf War and forcing Latif Hamdan already a U.S. citizen to permanently move his family back to the United States. The Hamdans settled in Montgomery County, where Latif, who is of Palestinian descent, works for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Gibran first made a name for himself at Arlington's Bishop O'Connell High School, where he starred in football, baseball and basketball. He was offered a scholarship to Indiana, and left to play football and baseball in the Big Ten.
Hamdan was well-known in Bloomington, but having spent four years as the backup to current Pittsburgh Steeler Antwaan Randle El before finally starting eight games last year, he wasn't considered much of an NFL prospect. In fact, one well-known draft guide said his best chance to play sports professionally would be on the baseball field.
To which Hamdan responds: "Unfortunately, I couldn't hit a curveball."
Hamdan had at least one supporter at Redskin Park: head trainer Dean Kleinschmidt, whose son Rhett happens to be a receiver at Indiana.
"Rhett has always been talking about Gibran," Kleinschmidt said, "just about what a great guy he is."
Kleinschmidt got Hamdan and his family tickets to last season's finale against Dallas, the only Redskins game Hamdan has ever been to. Three months later, he was invited to participate in the local college workout, and as the only quarterback in attendance wound up getting more personal attention than he could ever have dreamed.
"I'm trying to learn as much as I can when I'm on the football field, and I think that got across to the coaching staff," he said. "I was taking what they were trying to teach me during the workout."
Spurrier was immediately impressed, and decided he wanted to get Hamdan in a Redskins uniform, whether as a draft pick or as an undrafted free agent.
"I'll tell you what, when you watch him, he's impressive looking," Spurrier said. "If I told you he could drop back and throw it about like [first-rounders Kyle] Boller and Carson Palmer and those guys, you'd think I'm crazy. But come out this weekend [to mini-camp] and watch him play."
Hamdan will be given a legitimate chance to earn a roster spot as Washington's No.3 quarterback. His only competition at the moment appears to be Banks, whom the Redskins signed as an undrafted free agent last night.
And come September, the kid from Potomac no one knew about just might be a quarterback in the NFL.
"I think it's one of the best jobs in America, if you can even call it a job," he said. "I really feel like I'm special just to get the opportunity to try to be an NFL quarterback."

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