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Embick article. Nice photo cover

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Waiting game over
After four years as a college backup, Danny Embick finally gets the chance to be a starting quarterback.
By Marcus Nelson

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Thursday, September 01, 2005

BOCA RATON ? Danny Embick's patience is being tested again.

A meeting scheduled for 11 a.m. can't begin because someone hasn't shown up. Embick begins to pace, check his watch and roll his eyes.

FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger has confidence in Danny Embick. 'I'm convinced he has the capacity to lead us this year,' he said.

Eventually, the meeting gets started, but behind schedule.

Even if it's just a few minutes, Embick doesn't like to wait. Not that he's not used to it.

For the past four years, Embick has bided his time for a chance to once again be a starting quarterback.

The waiting has taken its toll.

He's happy he'll be Florida Atlantic's quarterback and his eyes light up when he talks about taking off on a play designed for him to run the ball. But his college career also has been a source of frustration.

"I'll miss it,'' Embick said, "but not the second it's over.''

The fifth-year senior, who transferred from West Virginia in 2003, is the main weapon of an offense that returns only four starters

"I'm kind of concerned," Embick said. "It's frustrating because I've been waiting and we have an unproven offense."

After leading Dwyer High School to the Class 5A title game, Embick was recruited by many major schools. He appeared to be on a track that would have him competing for the Mountaineers' starting quarterback job as a senior, but then he left West Virginia for FAU.

He figured he'd compete for a starting job with the Owls, but Jared Allen became a leader of a team that went 20-6 over the past two seasons.

Although he thought he would be battling for the starting job at FAU, the past two years Embick has been a backup to Jared Allen.

Embick has had some second thoughts about his college career. He figures he'd be in the working world by now, but instead he's still on the field.

"We spend almost seven hours a day on football in the fall," Embick said. "I've had to be asking my parents for money for five years just to eat. I don't know why I even started doing this. I really don't like being a student-athlete."

But now is his best chance to make it all worthwhile.

"I have to do it, because I have to do it," Embick said. "It's what I've been trying to do since high school."

At Dwyer, Embick was a top receiver and talented safety as a sophomore, catching passes from his brother, Kevin. But when Kevin Embick graduated to play football at Division III Ferrum, the Panthers needed a new quarterback. They turned to another Embick ? Danny.

"He wasn't the easiest to coach because he can get kind of grumpy if he makes a mistake, but he's a natural," Dwyer coach Jack Daniels said.

Embick rapidly improved before his senior year, when he led Dwyer to a 13-2 record and a state runner-up finish.

After also weighing offers from Arkansas, North Carolina and Tennessee, Embick picked West Virginia, a decision he now regrets.

"They were hard on us and I was so far from home," Embick said. "I was just so sick of being away. It was hard to leave Jupiter and the beach to go to Morgantown."

Embick used 2001 as a redshirt season and was the backup quarterback in 2002. Behind Rasheed Marshall, Embick played in five games and completed 9 of 17 passes with two touchdowns.

Homesick and tired of the grueling schedule, Embick remembered what a coach from a Division I-AA school told him about leaving home to play. The coach was FAU recruiting coordinator Kurt Van Valkenburgh and the message was simple.

"If you are trying to impress your friends by going to a certain school, guess what?" Embick said. "The day you leave on that plane, they aren't going to be with you. That's what coach Van told me about West Virginia. He said I'd be back."

Embick thought he could immediately step in at FAU, but Allen wasn't about to lose his job.

"I came here thinking I had a good chance to unseat Jared, but I totally underestimated him," Embick said. "I saw film of him and I didn't think he was very good. But then I got here and saw that he had this starter mentality and an aura about him. I just became friends with him and then I wasn't so bitter." But the long journey from his home in Jupiter to Boca Raton via Morgantown scarred Embick.

"He's been through a lot," Kevin Embick said. "Danny is interesting because he can be pessimistic and negative on himself. But once you get to know him, you see he's just a guy that doesn't take a lot . . . He's got kind of a maturity about him."

Said FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger: "He's a very private person, but he's football smart.''

Embick's mobility means the Owls' offense will feature more bootlegs, shotguns and quarterback draws.

"The last two years, the offense was built for Jared. So when I was in, I didn't want them to change anything," Embick said. "The last two years, I haven't played like I play. This year will be different.''

Schnellenberger believes Embick will make the most of his long-awaited opportunity.

"I don't think he's come into a game where I haven't been happy with his performance," Schnellenberger said. "I'm convinced he has the capacity to lead us this year and give us every opportunity to win.

"It's too bad he only has one year left."

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