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Another Side to the Draft

From a snake charmer to a running back whose father was ‘Huggy Bear,’ the 2003 NFL Draft is populated with an interesting cast of characters

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QB Carson Palmer, who could become the first USC player drafted first overall since Keyshawn Johnson, was tutored in high school by Bob Johnson, father of former Buc QB Rob Johnson

They have been timed at 10, 20 and 40 yards. They have done their vertical jumps and short shuttles. They have taken the Wonderlic test.

The numbers are in for the NFL Draft class of 2003. And behind the numbers are the stories that tell the human side of the draft.

Some of the interesting notes on the class of '03:

H-E-E-E-E-R-E's CARSON!: He could be the first overall selection in the draft – the first USC Trojan to be so since Keyshawn Johnson in 1996. Quarterback Carson Palmer is the 2002 Heisman Trophy winner, the fifth USCer and the first since Marcus Allen in 1981 so selected. And the first Trojan quarterback to win the award. He set school records for total offensive yards, and most plays, passing yards, passing TDs, completions, attempts and 300-yard games. To his Heisman, he added the Johnny Unitas "Golden Arm" Award and CNN/SI Player of the Year Award.

Everybody knows about the big dude from Southern California. But following are 10 lesser-known items about Carson Palmer:

Carson's City

1. If he goes up against new Washington Redskins quarterback Rob Johnson this year, who has the advantage? Palmer's personal QB tutor in high school was Bob Johnson, who coached son Rob at El Toro (Calif.) High. 2. He's a believer in learning by reading, and read to elementary school classes from 1999-2001. 3. He was the first Heisman Trophy winner since Bo Jackson (1986) to accept a Senior Bowl invitation. 4. He went to the same high school (Santa Margarita in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.) as Florida State QB Chris Rix. 5. He's not too domesticated: "I don't cook anything unless I can pop it in the microwave."

6. On his bedroom wall as a youngster, he hung posters of all the USC Heisman Trophy winners – Mike Garrett (1965), O.J. Simpson (1968), Charles White (1979) and Allen (1981).

7. He's getting married July 6 to Shaelyn Fernandes. And he's a typical groom. "Shaelyn has done such a good job with all the wedding stuff," he happily says, "I haven't had to do a whole lot."

8. It was a double thrill winning the Unitas: "A guy like Bart Starr called me on the phone telling me I won an award named after a guy like Johnny Unitas." 9. A public policy major, he thinks he might want to work in health insurance. 10. He will make history on June 26. On that day, he will become the first Heisman Winner to be honored with the "Lowsman." He will be saluted along with "Mr. Irrelevant" – the final player taken in the draft – at the annual banquet in Newport Beach, California that awards the "Lowsman Trophy." The creator of "Mr. Irrelevant" is Paul Salata, a former USC (and San Francisco and Baltimore) wide receiver. "Carson Palmer is a pretty special person around these parts," says Salata.

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LEFTWICH CAN'T BE LEFT OUT: There are a lot of promising quarterbacks joining Carson Palmer in the Draft Class of '03, 20 years after the QB Class of '83.

There's Kyle Boller (California), Ken Dorsey (Miami), Rex Grossman (Florida), Kliff Kingsbury (Texas Tech), Byron Leftwich (Marshall), Dave Ragone (Louisville) and Chris Simms (Texas).

One of the most interesting is Leftwich, who easily deserves his own list. Five good items about him:

Lord Byron

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