To Be a Bengal : Doug Gaynor Gets a Feel for the NFL in Cincinnati Camp

May 29, 1986|DICK WAGNER | Times Staff Writer

On a recent day in Cincinnati, a dream came true for Doug Gaynor, a rookie quarterback a long way from home. He tossed a football with Ken Anderson, a Cincinnati Bengals quarterback for 14 seasons and a former all-pro.

"When (Anderson) broke in, I was 6 years old," Gaynor recalled.

Actually, he was 8 then, in 1971. Fifteen years later, Gaynor, a record-setter at Cal State Long Beach the past two seasons, was on a pro practice field, trying to break in--as one of Anderson's teammates.

Gaynor, who was selected by Cincinnati in the fourth round of the National Football League draft, is hoping to start a career as long as Anderson's, but he has Anderson and a young pro, Boomer Esiason, ahead of him.

Esiason is Cincinnati's No. 1 quarterback and Anderson, who is expected to retire after the 1986 season, is his backup. Meeting Esiason also thrilled Gaynor.

At Two Weekend Camps

"Boomer's really a nice guy; he took me out to lunch," Gaynor said.

Gaynor said he was surprised at the cordiality at the two weekend camps he attended--one for draftees and free agents and the other for the whole team. "Everyone was real friendly," he said. "I didn't expect pro football to be like that."

Gaynor said he was a dinner guest at the home of Cincinnati Coach Sam Wyche.

"He said it would be a good situation for me in a year or two," Gaynor said. "I'll probably be third-string this year. Their attitude is to bring me along slowly.

"I don't want to act like I'm guaranteed of making the team," Gaynor said, "but they act like they're going to keep three quarterbacks."

By 1987, Gaynor could move in as the No. 2 quarterback, but the Bengals still view the left-handed Esiason, who played at the University of Maryland and who won the starting job last year in just his second season, as their quarterback of the future.

Gaynor has not yet signed a contract with the Bengals.

"I want what's fair," said Gaynor, who knows that whatever he gets will be more money than he has ever seen in his life. "That's a lot of money to make when you're 23. Julie (his wife) and I have talked about being smart and not living it up. Our plans are to invest. I hope to amass some kind of fortune so I won't have to work real hard the rest of my life."

'Very Low' Salary Offer

But the Bengals seem reluctant to start Gaynor on an easy road to riches.

Gaynor's agent, Larry Muno of Inglewood-based Charter Athletes Inc., said Tuesday: "I just received an offer from Cincinnati I'm disappointed in. It's very low. Cincinnati is known as a low-paying team."

Muno would not disclose the offer but said it was considerably below the average salary of $81,678 made by fourth-round draft choices in 1985. Muno said the average of all NFL players last season was $162,600.

Gaynor has been offered a contract--more than $500,000 over three years--by the Ottawa Rough Riders of the Canadian Football League, a circuit that has proven to be a good training ground for young quarterbacks. Joe Theismann, Warren Moon and Dieter Brock all played in Canada before coming to the NFL.

Ottawa is still interested in Gaynor.

"We'd be happy to get the guy up here," Ottawa Coach Joe Moss said Tuesday from the Rough Riders' training camp in Peterborough, Ontario. "I think he's a good, tough guy completely devoted to football. I think he'd be great up here. But we don't have the money to compete with the NFL."

Muno said he would remain in touch with Ottawa although the proposed contract "doesn't look all that good when you figure what it translates into American dollars."

'I Feel Optimistic

"Obviously, we'd like to play here (Cincinnati)," Muno said. "But I hate to see him in a backup role with a guy (Esiason) that young ahead of him." (Esiason is only two years older than Gaynor, who will be 23 July 5.) "But I feel optimistic. I don't think anyone knows the kind of competitor he is."

That competitiveness earned Gaynor the kind of statistics last season that quarterbacks dream of having. He completed 71.2% of his passes for 3,559 yards and 19 touchdowns and was named the Co-Offensive Player of the Year in the Pacific Coast Athletic Assn.

Gaynor came to Cal State Long Beach from his hometown of Fresno, where he was a junior college All-American, for one main reason--to become a better quarterback, one who could play in the NFL. After two seasons under 49ers Coach Mike Sheppard, who emphasized an intricate passing game, Gaynor said he feels he is prepared to go on.

"He's very dedicated," said Mike Sanford, the 49ers' quarterback coach. "You can see it by how hard he's worked since the season ended. He's in great shape."

Gaynor dropped out of school after his senior season last fall. He said he will be 20 units short of graduating, but that he may return to Cal State Long Beach next spring. He started as an English major but that required more time than he could give, so he he switched to physical education.

"Basically I've lived football," Gaynor said. "I've put all my energy into it."

Six Months in Training

Gaynor, 6 feet 2 and 213 pounds, has spent the last six months training--lifting weights, throwing footballs, playing basketball.

He will return to Fresno for a month and a half, where he will follow a training regimen suggested by the Bengals.

"They want me to set up a target, like a pole, and hit it," Gaynor said. "I'll have to be accurate. If I miss, I'll have to chase the ball."

Everything went well for Gaynor during the two Bengal camps--until the final day, when he overslept.

"The bus left for the practice field at 7:30," Gaynor said. "I woke up at 7:45. I didn't know what to do. The money I had brought had run out. I was stuck there, hoping someone would call."

Team officials finally found Gaynor, but he was four hours late for practice. His teammates now call him Rip Van Winkle.

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