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Eastern Illinois QB Jimmy Garoppolo might be NFL starter

Updated: March 23, 2014 6:21AM

INDIANAPOLIS — One of the myriad appointments scheduled for the nation’s fastest-rising quarterback this week is with Saints coach Sean Payton.

The last time Jimmy Garoppolo saw Payton, the coach was having his number retired at Eastern Illinois.

Garoppolo — who led the Football Championship Subdivision with 5,050 passing yards for the Panthers in 2013 — soon might find himself at his own ceremony.

But first, the Rolling Meadows High School graduate has to land with an NFL team. And to do that, he’ll throw Sunday at the NFL Scouting Combine.

“I wanted to showcase my talent against the other best quarterbacks in the nation,” he said. “That’s what the combine is all about.”

He came in at 6-2, 226 pounds with 31-inch arms and 9¼-inch hands Friday. Nine-inch-plus hands are considered ideal.

Garoppolo, who’s training in Los Angeles, has enjoyed the best offseason of any quarterback, impressing scouts in the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl.

“The exposure really helps a small-school guy like me,” he said. “It’s tough for us to get our names out there.

“We’re not always on ESPN and on TV and everything like that, so every little bit of exposure like that helps me and helps get my name out there.”

NFL Network draftnik Mike Mayock likes it.

‘‘[He] went from a mid- to late-round question mark to a guy who could conceivably go in the second or third round,” Mayock said.

“Teams are looking at, potentially, a starting quarterback.”


Twitter: @patrickfinley

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