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Clausen falls into Panthers' laps in Round 2

The Carolina Panthers' last long-term quarterback, Jake Delhomme, came from a horse farm in Louisiana. The guy who might be their next one was relaxing at a Palm Springs, Calif., hotel this weekend.

While the surroundings were comfortable, the wait was agonizing for Jimmy Clausen.

Once it was over, he was able to express relief, but for the previous 24 hours or so, the draft was a nightmare as what he expected to be a top-10 selection became a spiral that only stopped when the Panthers picked him 48th overall.

When it was over, his mood lifted in a hurry, and his thoughts turned to what he was going to do for the guys who ended the interminable delay - hoping to reward them for the faith in him that others lacked.

"My goal, you know how I'm going to take this, is try to be the starter from Day One," Clausen said. "That's going to be my mentality, be the starter from Day One. Whatever the coaches want me to do, I'm going to do it to the best of my ability and at the end of the day, if I'm good enough to play, I'm going to play. But if not, I want to do everything I can to help the team win."

The slide cost Clausen a night of wondering why and millions of dollars, but he tried to handle it as coolly as he could. He was shooting pool with his brothers when he phone started ringing around 4:15 p.m. his time, and one of them tossed him the cell which had coach John Fox on the other end.

At that moment, any thoughts of bitterness passed, and he turned the snub to motivation.

"It's frustrating sometimes," he said. "It's definitely going to be in the back of my mind every single time I step on the field, every single time I'm in the facility working out and watching film, to make me that much better.

"It's a dream come true and I just can't wait to get there."

Likewise, the Panthers can't wait to get him here, adding a pedigreed quarterback to a franchise that's long preferred undrafted rookies who've come up the hard way.

When the Panthers looked at Clausen, they saw a kid who could become a ready-made starter. Playing in a pro style system at Notre Dame under Charlie Weis (whom Panthers offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson worked under in New England and Fox is close friends with), Clausen showed polish and an accurate arm.

"I think there's a lot of things," Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said when asked what drew them to Clausen. "First of all, just the comfort level. He's coming out of an offense that is going to be very familiar with the offense at this level. He's an extremely competitive player.

"He's played at a high level against the top teams. He's shown a real knack for being able to bring his team back late in games, and has played very well in close games. All those things you look for from a quarterback that maybe aren't physical as far as how he plays on the field."

There have been criticisms of his leadership style or ability - not to mention his 16-18 record as a starter - and those were magnified in the days leading up to the draft.

"That's just the nature of football," Clausen said. "I make mistakes, other guys make mistakes, but at the end of the day, you've just got to come together and learn from your mistakes and get better each and every day, each and every week."

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