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  • ARENA FOOTBALL LEAGUE

    Big numbers in 'Big D'

    Former SOU wide receiver Thurman hopes for a shot with the Dallas Cowboys
  • Andrae Thurman hopes to hook on with an NFL team prior to the 2007 season.
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    • ANDRAE THURMAN
      who: Dallas Desperados receiver who has snared 61 passes for 787 yards and 17 touchdowns.
      • of note: Counting a stint with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League, Thurma...
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      ANDRAE THURMAN
      who: Dallas Desperados receiver who has snared 61 passes for 787 yards and 17 touchdowns.

      • of note: Counting a stint with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League, Thurman has played nonstop for nearly a year.
      • QUOTE: "(Arena League Football) is almost like a 7-on-7 passing league. I've grown to like it a lot."
  • Andrae Thurman hopes to hook on with an NFL team prior to the 2007 season.
    But at the moment, the former Southern Oregon University standout is happy to be playing on the No. 1 team in the Arena Football League.
    Thurman serves as one of the leading receivers for the Dallas Desperados, who registered an AFL-best 15-1 record heading into their playoff opener Saturday, when they host Columbus. The games are televised on ESPN.
    Thurman played at SOU in 2003 after transferring from the University of Arizona.
    "It's a fast-paced, exciting game, and it's tailor-made for receivers," said Thurman in reference to Arena League Football. "It's almost like a 7-on-7 passing league. I've grown to like it a lot."
    Thurman has hauled in 61 passes for 787 yards and 17 touchdowns in the Desperados' 16 games, but that's only third-best on a team that averages 63.5 points per game. Will Pettis has 124 catches for 1,424 yards and 37 TDs, and former league MVP Marcus Nash has 77 catches for 1,080 yards and 20 TDs.
    Quarterback Clint Dolezel, meanwhile, has thrown for 4,221 yards and a whopping 99 touchdowns.
    That's what happens when skilled athletes match up 8-on-8 on a field that measures just 50 yards long and 85 feet wide.
    The 5-foot-11, 190-pound Thurman had brief stints with four NFL teams: the New York Giants, Houston, Tennessee and Green Bay twice. It looked like his NFL career might take off in 2005 when he saw action in 10 games with the Packers. He caught seven passes for 92 yards and returned eight kickoffs for 136 yards.
    But Thurman was released after Mike McCarthy took over as head coach in January 2006.
    "They were coming off a 4-12 season and a lot of changes had to be made," said Thurman. "One thing the new coaching regime wanted was bigger receivers, and I was let go."
    Thurman enjoyed his short stay in Titletown, USA, however.
    "I had the opportunity to play with who I believe is the best quarterback in NFL history (Brett Favre), and I learned a lot from guys like Donald Driver and Javon Walker," he said.
    Thurman hoped his sliver of success in Green Bay would lead to another NFL opportunity. Instead, he found himself playing for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League in 2006. There, he rubbed elbows with Canada's version of Jerry Rice, 37-year-old Milt Stegall.
    "He's one of those veterans who takes care of his body and can still play the game," said Thurman. "I've soaked up everything I can from these older guys. I've learned to take care of my body, eat right and do the little things that give you the best chance of success."
    Dating to Winnipeg's training camp last June and an 18-game season, Thurman has gone a full year with only a month off the grid iron.
    And if he has his way, he won't get a break anytime soon. NFL training camps open in late July, the same week as ArenaBowl XXI in New Orleans.
    Thurman is hopeful of getting a tryout with the Dallas Cowboys, the Desperados' parent club. Cowboys receivers coach Ray Sherman mentored him in Green Bay.
    "He (Sherman) fought for me when I was at Green Bay — we'll see how things go," said Thurman. "The arena league has been a great experience, and I wouldn't mind staying, but like any football player, my ultimate goal is the NFL."
    Reach reporter Don Hunt at 776-4469, or e-mail dhunt@mailtribune.com
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