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September 27, 1986|JOHN WEYLER | Times Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA — Friendship--when it comes to National Football League draft day, anyway--does have its boundaries.

Dick Vermeil now says he was naive to think otherwise, but that didn't soothe his feelings of betrayal in 1982.

Vermeil, then coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, went into that draft determined to get a bona fide breakaway wide receiver to complement Harold Carmichael. He was counting on Perry Tuttle, a speedster from Clemson, still being around when the Eagles drafted 20th in the first round.

That Vermeil coveted Tuttle was hardly a secret. In fact, he had told anyone who would listen that Tuttle was going to be Philadelphia's No. 1 pick.

Chuck Knox, one of Vermeil's closest friends--and also coach of the Buffalo Bills--was listening.

Tuttle was still available when Denver, picking 19th, was due to make its selection. The Broncos needed a running back, so Vermeil relaxed.

But just before the 15-minute deadline expired, Denver traded its pick to Buffalo.

And Knox picked Tuttle.

Vermeil reluctantly settled on Mike Quick, a receiver from North Carolina State.

The problem with Quick was that he didn't live up to his name when running those 40-yard dashes. Tuttle's time had been 4.4. Quick's was 4.6. Four-sixes aren't supposed to go in the first round.

"We had Tuttle and Quick rated the same in terms of ability, which goes to show how smart we are," said Vermeil, now an analyst for CBS. "But my first thought was to go with the burner."

As it turned out, it was the Bills who got burned. Tuttle failed to make it at Buffalo, then at Tampa, and finally at Atlanta. He was last seen on a playing field in Canada.

Quick, on the other hand, only leaves the continental United States to make annual appearances in the Pro Bowl in Hawaii. In the last three years, he has quietly become what many consider the best all-around receiver in the game.

"A couple tenths of a second doesn't make the difference," Quick said. "The most important thing any football player can have is heart, the will to play the game."

Quick has found the way to make the most of his talents and has put together some impressive numbers to support his theory.

He had only 10 receptions in a strike-shortened rookie season but has gained more than 1,000 yards receiving every year since, becoming the first Eagle in history to surpass 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons.

Last year, he led the NFC in receiving yardage with 1,247 and in touchdown catches with 11 while setting a Philadelphia single-season reception record with 73.

"I learned that there's no such thing as a personal friend in the NFL, and Chuck learned never to listen to me again," Vermeil said, laughing.

"Quick has no limitations that I know of. He's got a 6-to-1 catch-to-touchdown ratio, which is better than any I've come across since I started breaking down and rating receivers like I do now (for CBS)."

Eagle quarterback Ron Jaworski has had the pleasure of watching Quick outsmart--and even out run --half of the defensive backs in the NFL.

"Mike was kind of raw in '82," Jaworski said. "He didn't have a feel for me, and I didn't have a feel for him. He wasn't even a starter because Vermeil was bringing him along slowly.

"But that off-season he stayed in town, and we worked out three and four times a week. That's when we developed a rapport. He knew where I was going to put the ball and I knew where he was going to be."

"That off-season he became a real pro. . . . When the game's on the line, he's the guy you look for."

Jaworski looked for, and found, Quick last Nov. 10 in overtime against the Atlanta Falcons. The game was on the line, and so were the Eagles--their own goal line.

The play was just a quick--er, short--post pattern. Quick got a step on Atlanta cornerback Bobby Butler, then took the ball away from safety Scott Case, who went for the interception.

If Vermeil was watching what happened next, he probably noticed Quick's 99 3/4-yard speed.

Butler watched. That was all he could do.

"I saw the man racing to the end zone like he was going to the '88 Olympics," Butler said. "I figured I'd might as well stop and see if there were any flags. We weren't going to catch him."

Butler wasn't the first to come to that conclusion. In a little more than four seasons, Quick has found a way to get the ball into the end zone 35 times.

And nobody asks to see his time in the 40 anymore.

His speed might not have impressed Vermeil in 1982, but Quick figures he's fortunate to have been blessed with enough talent to rise from a humble childhood in a tiny North Carolina railroad town to NFL stardom and handsome salary "just for having fun."

"When I first came here, I kind of had the feeling I wasn't wanted, that I was a second choice," he said. "But I was happy as hell to be drafted in the first round. I was elated."

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