Hoops to football: Why not more often?

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

This article caught my eye this morning. It's about Arizona's Fendi Onobun, who's 6-foot-6, 250 pounds and loaded with athletic ability.

He's got NFL dreams.

What's the issue? Onobun, as many of you already know, played basketball for the Wildcats, not football. Beyond that, he said he's never even played football before.

So, yes, his chances of reaching the NFL are remote. But not impossible.

This story also sparked my memory. I covered Auburn back in 1997, and Terry Bowden's Tigers were hurting at tight end.

I recall a couple of the beat writers, in our always helpful way, telling Bowden we'd found him one: Adrian Chilliest.

Chilliest was a 6-foot-5 forward on the Tigers' basketball team. He had limited offensive skills but was a tough, physical presence on the court.

In other words, he was a tight end masquerading as a basketball player.

So he was a lot like thousands of young men who are that size and playing the wrong sport.

Guys that size often dominate high school basketball. They may even be good enough to get a college scholarship, as Chilliest was.

But a guy that size who doesn't have wicked ball skills, incredible leaping ability or a dead-eyed shot isn't going to get paid for playing basketball.

On the football field, however, the critical measure is 6-foot-5.

You can't teach 6-foot-5, and a lot of coaches will tell you that size with good feet is like precious clay that can be molded into a lot of different things.

Of course, there's another critical, intangible asset that's hard to measure: toughness.

Football is harder than basketball. It's more mentally and physically taxing. Practicing football -- particularly in the Alabama humidity -- isn't fun.

You never know how a guy will react after he gets the snot knocked out of him for the first time. Plenty of high school football stars wilt when they get to college and everyone else is just as big and fast and maybe a bit meaner.

Still, as a guy whose primary sport is football but who sometimes covers basketball, too, I often find myself looking at a small forward who averages eight points and nine rebounds a game and thinking: tight end, defensive end or left tackle?