AP Sports Writer
ALLEN PARK (AP) — After his first game at Michigan last season, it was hard to tell if Jake Rudock would even make it through the year as the starting quarterback, much less play his way into an NFL opportunity.
A lot changed during his brief stint with the Wolverines.
Rudock was drafted in the sixth round Saturday by the Detroit Lions, an impressive accomplishment for a player who took a while to win over Michigan fans but ended up making significant strides under coach Jim Harbaugh. The Lions hadn't drafted a quarterback since taking Matthew Stafford No. 1 overall in 2009.
"When I sat down with Jake I really saw a passionate football guy that is very smart, very attentive," Lions general manager Bob Quinn said. "I really think the bottom line is, when we worked him out I really came away impressed about how he threw the ball."
Rudock transferred from Iowa to Michigan for his final college season, but amid all the excitement about Harbaugh's arrival last year, the Wolverines lost their opener at Utah, with Rudock throwing three interceptions. Although Michigan won five straight games after that, much of the credit went to the defense.
By the time the season ended, however, Rudock had completed 64 percent of his passes, for 3,017 yards with 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions. In his final college game, he threw three TD passes in Michigan's 41-7 rout of Florida in the Citrus Bowl.
"Coach (Jedd) Fisch, Coach Harbaugh, Coach (Tim) Drevno, those guys, they really train us like NFL players," Rudock said. "They really preach that and have us study what the NFL guys do and how well they do it."
Quinn is in his first season as general manager of the Lions, and his arrival may signal a change in the way Detroit approaches the quarterback position. Quinn says he thinks it's "good football business" to draft a quarterback about every other year.
Since overcoming some injury problems early in his career, Stafford has faced no real challenges to his starting job in Detroit. Rudock doesn't seem likely to change that right away, but he'll have an opportunity to develop.
"We had him in here for our local pro day, so we got an up-close-and-personal look at him and felt that he would add really good competition to the quarterback room," Quinn said.
Rudock's experience playing a pro style made him a slightly more attractive prospect.
"I think, you know, college football nowadays, there's a lot of quarterbacks that never go under center," Quinn said. "It does factor in and helped his cause."
When Rudock was drafted, there were some immediate, somewhat tongue-in-cheek references to Tom Brady, another quarterback from Michigan who was picked in the sixth round.
Rudock and Quinn quickly dismissed that comparison, and the more immediate question for Rudock is whether he can challenge Dan Orlovsky for the No. 2 spot on the Detroit depth chart at quarterback. Orlovsky has played in only five games in the past four seasons.
"I think just short term it's just coming in there and just trying to learn as much as I can," Rudock said. "Learn as much as I can from Orlovsky and Stafford, those guys have a ton of years under their belt, a ton of playing experience. You know, for me as a young guy, I'm just trying to learn as much as I can and try to help this team any way that I possibly can."
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