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Hoops helped Monk to another NFL chance

Posted Jul 15, 2009

Monk

Marcus Monk used his height and reach to his advantage at OTAs. (PHOTO: ANDREW MASON / PANTHERS.COM)


CHARLOTTE -- To get a second chance at a first professional impression, wide receiver Marcus Monk had to detour to another sport entirely. And while playing basketball back at the University of Arkansas was hardly the place he expected to be last winter, the experience proved beneficial and helped him get another NFL shot.

"Basketball helped me out with my cardio(vascular) conditioning," Monk said. "You can run all day long if you can play basketball."

Running around Bud Walton Arena for the Razorbacks wasn't in Monk's plans after the Chicago Bears used a seventh-round pick on him in the 2008 NFL Draft, but it became his best option after the Bears waived him last August and a stint on the New York Giants' practice squad lasted only a week.

Monk re-enrolled at Arkansas, where he'd been selected Southeastern Conference's honor roll during his years in the school's football program. He dove back into his studies, working toward a second bachelor's degree in finance, but also found himself playing the early portion of the basketball season for the Hogs, using the one year of eligibility he had remaining on the court.

As he played basketball, his mind was on the NFL, and how hoops could give him another opportunity on the field.

"The footwork is totally different, but cardio is the same, and I try to go up and grab a pass in football the way I grab a rebound (on the basketball court)," Monk said.

Grabbing passes like rebounds is probably the best way for Monk to take advantage of his lanky 6-foot-4 frame, on which he carries 212 pounds. During the Panthers' minicamp and organized team activities in May and June, he cut an unmistakable figure by often catching the football with outstretched arms at the apex of a jump, allowing him to snag passes others could not.

Yet the on-field work wasn't so much about what Monk could do, but what he could learn from Carolina's veteran receivers and their longtime position coach, Richard Williamson.

"Coach Williamson, he's teaching me a lot," Monk said. "Coach is on us about splits, getting in and out of your routes, separation, all those small things that you've got to concentrate on.

"I'm (also) learning from Moose (Muhsin Muhammad) and Steve (Smith). As far as me as a receiver, I feel like I've gotten a lot better just in a month, just from listening and taking everything in."

It was almost as though Monk was in graduate school to learn how to play receiver.  The former high-school valedictorian knew he'd be pursuing a master's degree at some point, but figured it might be in an academic discipline rather than in football.

"That's still a goal of mine," he said, "to be able to do that when I'm done playing."

But that can wait, because a second chance at the NFL is at hand.