Paulus announced Thursday morning that he would return to his hometown of Syracuse to play football after four years of basketball with the Blue Devils. He said he called new Orange coach Doug Marrone on Thursday morning to notify him of his decision.
Because Paulus did not redshirt and he completed his degree at Duke in four years, he can go to graduate school elsewhere and compete right away in football if he is granted a waiver. Paulus said he plans to drive back to Syracuse in the coming days to deal with the necessary paperwork.
"I know not many people have done this, and having that type of opportunity and challenge is something that excites me and motivates me," Paulus said in a conference call with reporters. "It will keep me in the gym longer and keep me on the field longer."
Paulus, a three-year starter at Duke, said he didn't start thinking about a return to football until after the basketball season ended and a few teams started calling to gauge his interest. He began throwing a football around again and said "the itch and the desire" to play that sport took over.
He had a tryout with the NFL's Green Bay Packers and visited Nebraska and Michigan in addition to Syracuse.
He said about two dozen college teams made contact with him.
In the end, he said his gut and his heart told him to go to Syracuse, the same city where he starred as a high school quarterback. He threw for more than 11,700 yards at Christian Brothers Academy and was named the 2004 Gatorade national player of the year in football.
Miami and Notre Dame offered him football scholarships, and he received a basketball offer from Syracuse before choosing to play basketball at Duke.
Of course, that was high school. Paulus hasn't played the sport competitively in four years and faces the daunting challenge of trying to learn how to be a college quarterback between now and Syracuse's Sept. 5 opener against Minnesota.
"There will be a number of challenges along the way," he said. "But I'm confident in myself and believe in myself, and I'm hoping it works out for the best."
Paulus said he received no promises from Marrone about playing time. Marrone named redshirt freshman Ryan Nassib his starting quarterback during the first week of spring practice.
Under NCAA rules, Marrone can't comment on Paulus until all of the official paperwork is complete. Paulus intends to pursue a graduate degree in communications at Syracuse and will need a waiver from the NCAA to become eligible this season.
Paulus has been training for football during the past month, occasionally tossing the football with his younger brother, Mike, a quarterback at North Carolina. He said his goal is to win the starting job for the opener, but that he'd accept whatever role Marrone asks of him.
"I love two sports, and to be able to play them both at the college level is pretty unique and special," he said. "I'm fortunate to have the opportunity to do it."
Brian Bennett is the Big East blogger for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.