SAN ANTONIO - It was physiologically possible but still downright odd, the way Brandon Weeden's shoulder felt.

A partially torn labrum and tendinitis in his right rotator cuff spent years whittling away at the 97 mph fastball that got him selected by the New York Yankees in the second round of the 2002 draft.

But whenever Weeden threw a football - a different motion than tossing a baseball, sure, but not by much - he never felt so much as a twinge.

"Even when it was at its worst, I could throw a football with no pain," he said. "It was weird."

And maybe a sign.

The 27-year-old Weeden, married and mature, will quarterback the Cowboys against the Arizona Wildcats in tonight's Alamo Bowl.

He started his college career at 23.

"I'm glad I made the decision when I did," he said. "These last four years have been the most fun of my life."

In 2006, sickened by the shoulder trouble, Weeden walked away from baseball having never played above Single-A. OSU coach Mike Gundy, who recruited him out of Edmond (Okla.) Santa Fe High School, was interested.

The Yankees paid for his schooling - part of his contract - until this past January. Weeden redshirted the 2007 season at OSU, but threw only 27 passes the next two seasons as a poor fit in the team's run-heavy offense.

When offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen installed his Texas Tech-style offense this spring, it fit the accurate thrower far better.

Weeden - the third-stringer in last year's Cotton Bowl - became one of the nation's biggest surprises. He finished second nationally with 336.42 passing yards per game and fourth with 32 touchdowns. Only one other player can top his 330.75 yards of total offense.

"From Game 1 to 12," Holgorsen said, "I've never coached a kid that's shown that much improvement."

Holgorsen said Weeden didn't truly understand the offense until the truly second half of the season. He adjusted after losing star wideout Justin Blackmon for the Oct. 30 game against Kansas State.

"Brandon would get the ball and just stare right at Justin and throw it to him and we'd throw a few touchdowns," Holgorsen said. "And he'd come off the sideline and I'd still be getting into him pretty good, because it was just a horrible decision.

"But that was part of the maturity process."

Composure off the field isn't an issue for OSU's first first-team all-league quarterback since the 1930s.

"When you're 18, you're still kind of naïve and oblivious to what's going around," Weeden said. "Me going to baseball and succeeding - and failing - taught me a lot going back to school.

"One thing I try to do in the huddle, when things go bad, is gather the guys up and slow the game down.

"At this level the game goes pretty fast - and it'll overwhelm you."

Blackmon, seven years Weeden's junior, appreciates the guidance.

"He brings a lot of wisdom and experience - not just in football, but from life," he said. "He never gets nervous."

Weeden, a business management major, wants to sell medical equipment after football. Given his age, Weeden could leave early for the NFL after the Alamo Bowl.

Every once in a while, he said, he'll remind his teammates how quick time goes by. "Don't look back in five or 10 years and say, 'If I'd done this, If I'd done that,' " he said. "There are some things in baseball I wish I could go back and do different, but I can't. "Enjoy every minute. You'll never have the what-ifs."