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Pace lobbies Jets to make him top choice Buckeye would be 1st OT to be No. 1 in 3 decades


INDIANAPOLIS -- The New York Jets' immediate future won't be sorted out until Bill Parcells' and Peyton Manning's are, but at least there remains one constant in this confusing off-season: Ohio State offensive tackle Orlando Pace wants to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 1997 draft, thinks he should be the No. 1 pick and would like the Jets to make him the No. 1 pick.

"When was the last time an offensive lineman was the first pick in the draft?" Pace asked during his whirlwind 24-hour stay for the annual scouting combine. (It was Ron Yary of the Minnesota Vikings, three decades ago.) "I want to be history-making. That was one of my goals last year by staying in school, to be the No. 1 pick."

Asked if he is the best player in the country, Pace said, "I think I am. I'm not going to say somebody else."

Last week, Pace told Newsday it would be "a dream situation" to be picked by the Jets and play for Bill Parcells, thus joining Keyshawn Johnson as the second consecutive projected top pick to lobby for a job with the NFL's worst team.

Pace's agent, Carl Poston, said if Parcells intends to return to his ground control, hard-hitting football roots, Pace is his man. "I'm sure Parcells will want to see some pancake [blocks] in New York," Poston said. "That's what Orlando does, he moves people out of the way. So if Parcells is going to be running New York, if Parcells is going to be selecting, I'm sure both parties will be happy, because that is what [Pace] does." Poston said the uncertainty about who will be running the Jets has made it difficult for agents.

PTC Next on Pace's schedule is a promotional appearance at a pancake festival in Minnesota this week. "Pancake blocks" is a reference to the times the 6-foot-6, 330-pounder knocks defenders off their feet and on their backs -- 74 in 12 games this past season. Ohio State used the statistic to quantify Pace's dominance and attract the attention of Heisman Trophy voters, but Pace grew tired of the phrase -- until he realized there was money to be made off it.

"I was discouraged with the whole pancake deal, but now it's endorsements and I love it, and I can deal with it," he said. "Everyone was like, 'There's the pancake man,' but it's OK now, because I'm going to get paid for it." Does he still eat pancakes? "Everywhere I go for breakfast, they say, 'Pancakes,' I say, 'No, French toast.' "

The affable Pace likely would be a good fit in New York. He even has scheduled an appearance on David Letterman's TV show. Playing up to his advance billing is the least of his worries. He allowed no sacks in his final two college seasons, and has no doubt he will be an NFL success.

"I'm excited; I'm ready for the challenge," he said. What if Manning makes himself eligible for the draft, thus threatening Pace's No. 1 status? "I'll be hurt [if I'm the second pick], but I have no control over that, because the team's going to select who they really need, not necessarily the best player. I'm not going to downplay Peyton, but if they need an offensive lineman, I'm the best one out there they can snag."

Pub Date: 2/09/97

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