In Jackson's shadow, Bollinger strives for calm and consistency

MANKATO, Minn. (AP) -The unquestioned favorite to be Minnesota's quarterback this season walked across the street after Monday's workout was over, smiling and waving while fans eager for autographs yelled, "Hey, Tarvaris! Hey, Tarvaris! Hey, Tarvaris!"

Brooks Bollinger doesn't quite receive the same level of attention.

For all of Tarvaris Jackson's erratic performances and general inexperience, he is the man with the rocket arm and the catch-me-if-you-can ability to scamper around behind the line or dart downfield past the defense. Jackson is the player with such intriguing potential that the enamored Vikings traded two third-round draft picks just so they could make sure to get him at the end of the second round in 2006.

He is perhaps the only reason - beyond prepaid tickets - thousands of people showed up at the Metrodome for the anticlimactic final game at the end of a frustrating 6-10 season filled with false starts, incompletions and fumbles by a once-fearsome offense.

Bollinger? He has become, basically, the uh-oh guy. If Bollinger wins the job, the prevailing assumption - among most fans and analysts - is that Minnesota will again be average at best.

He's not worried about that, however, because skepticism is nothing new to him.

Lacking a large frame and standout skills by NFL standards, Bollinger has had to lean on hard work, accuracy, steadiness and confidence. He was drafted in the sixth round in 2003 by the New York Jets, stuck with them and eventually started 11 games in 2005 when others in front of him got hurt.

Even in college, he dealt with plenty of doubt. At Wisconsin, where current Vikings coach Brad Childress recruited him as the offensive coordinator there, Bollinger took over in his redshirt freshman season and didn't lose a game until the following fall. The Badgers won the Rose Bowl that year, thanks largely to Heisman Trophy running back Ron Dayne.

The seasons that followed weren't quite as fun, though. Bollinger had problems with concussions, and Wisconsin wasn't as good in light of Dayne's departure and some off-the-field trouble. Toward the end of his career, the student section was pining for backup Jim Sorgi.

"You could kind of see it happen to other guys, but you don't really realize what it's going to be like until you're getting booed out there," Bollinger said.

One key to surviving in big-time sports, as Bollinger found out in his time in Madison, New York and Minnesota, is blocking out the forces that are out of one's control.

"I think at the end of the day you just have to worry about doing things the right way and never succumbing to sinking down to that level or worrying too much about it," Bollinger said. "No matter what happens, as long as you're consistent and you're a good teammate and you never get caught up in playing that game, I think you're always going to come out on top. People are always going to respect you for taking the high road."

Both Jackson and Bollinger have struggled to maintain consistency through the first week-and-a-half of training camp, but Jackson has received the majority of repetitions with the first string.

Jackson showed off his mobility on Monday, scrambling around the end and even knocking over All-Pro defensive tackle Kevin Williams several yards downfield. He has also made more than one highlight-worthy deep throw, despite the incompletions and interceptions.

Bollinger is simply striving for that level approach that he learned from peers like Chad Pennington. The North Dakota native is a good enough athlete who was an all-state basketball player at Grand Forks Central High School and drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers for his baseball ability. But making the right decisions under pressure in the pocket will be of utmost importance to Childress and the coaches, not only in practice drills but in actual games.

"Seven-on-seven is not the real world," Childress said.

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