Originally created 02/21/99

Couch consulted with Manning



INDIANAPOLIS -- Kentucky quarterback Tim Couch, a strong candidate to be the first choice in the NFL draft, recently sought the advice of last year's top pick.

For weeks, Couch has consulted with Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning by telephone and in person at the Super Bowl.

"He just told me there are going to be tough times early on, and be patient with it," Couch said Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Manning, a former All-American at Tennessee, has been a friend of Couch for several years. With the Colts, Manning started every game and was the only quarterback in the league to take every one of his team's offensive snaps.

While Manning set numerous rookie passing records, the Colts finished 3-13.

"Just be patient with it -- be yourself," Couch said Manning told him. "Keep working through it, and you will overcome it."

Couch and University of Texas running back Ricky Williams are considered the front-runners to be the No. 1 pick by the expansion Cleveland Browns in April.

Couch had a lengthy interview with Browns coach Chris Palmer on Friday night in Indianapolis.

"I thought it went really well," Couch said. "I got to meet Coach Palmer, sit down and talk with him a little bit. I thought it went great."

Without tipping their hand, the Browns have given indications they will select a quarterback with the first pick. Mainly because they hired a head coach who has groomed such established passers as Drew Bledsoe and Mark Brunell. And, in the expansion draft, Cleveland took one quarterback -- untested Scott Milanovich, formerly with Tampa Bay.

"That looks pretty good that they are going to take a quarterback," Couch said. "But you never know until April, and it's a long way between now and then."

At the combine, Couch took his physical and interviewed with teams. But he did not perform any drills. He has scheduled a March 11 workout date at Kentucky.

There he hopes to convince the NFL that his arm is strong enough to throw the deep and out passes at the professional level.

Couch, a native of Hyden, Ky., set national passing records in high school and confounded conventional wisdom by staying in-state for college, passing up scholarship offers from traditional powers like Florida, Tennessee and Penn State.

After struggling his freshman season, Couch blossomed, throwing for 73 touchdowns and more than 8,500 yards over the last two seasons. He finished fourth in the balloting for this season's Heisman Trophy.

Couch says the fact he didn't throw many deep passes at Kentucky had to do with the offensive system, not a lack of arm strength.

"Maybe it hurt me a little bit for what I'm going through now that people are doubting my arm strength because we didn't throw the ball down field a lot," he said. "But that is all going to be over in a day when I have my workout."