I talked to Don Coryell today about Hall of Champions business, and, naturally, took the opportunity to ask the legendary San Diego State and Chargers head coach — why isn’t he in the Pro Football Hall of Fame? — about Aztecs quarterback Kevin O’Connell.

I wasn’t sure how much he knew about the fifth-year senior from La Costa Canyon High now that Coryell lives in Washington. He knew plenty, and that was without me telling him O’Connell is shooting up the draft boards of many NFL teams. There is word he could go as high as the third round.

Don Coryell with quarterback Jesse Freitas. Photo: Ernie Anderson

“If some team needs a quarterback and doesn’t draft him, they’d be crazy,” Coryell told me. “I really, really like him.”

The mastermind of modern-day passing games said he not only would have loved to coach the 6-foot-6, 225-pounder in his days as a coach, he thinks O’Connell’s mobility makes him a good fit for today’s NFL-style offenses.

“He’s big, he can throw, he can run and he’s smart,” Coryell said.

One of the qualities of O’Connell’s game that SDSU coach Chuck Long says NFL scouts like about him is his ability to find the second and third receivers under pressure.

It’s interesting how far O’Connell has come in his five seasons at SDSU. And that’s not considering how much higher ranked he would be if his junior season wasn’t stunted by a thumb injury in the season opener.

When O’Connell, who was invited to the NFL Combine later this month, came out of La Costa Canyon following his senior season in the fall of 2002, the top quarterback in San Diego was St. Augustine’s Richard Kovalcheck.

He was so highly ranked the NFL even commissioned a feature story that showed then-Chargers quarterback Drew Brees working with Kovalcheck.

Then-SDSU coach Tom Craft hoped to land both Kovalcheck and O’Connell, but Kovalcheck committed to Arizona. Kovalcheck later came back to Craft before the signing day and said he had reconsidered his Arizona commitment, but by then Craft said O’Connell was his future quarterback.

Nothing against Kovalcheck, a good guy, but the Kovalcheck-O’Connell stories from high school to the NFL draft shows you how little it means for a school to have a top-ranked recruiting class.


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