The difference between the recruiting process heading into college and the NFL draft whirlwind is distinct and simple, Blaine Gabbert
"It's absolute role reversal," the Missouri quarterback told MaxPreps on Wednesday. "When you're being recruited, everyone is trying to impress you. When you enter the draft, you're the one trying to impress."
By all accounts, Gabbert has done all the right things heading into tonight's first day of the three-day NFL draft extravaganza. The 6-foot-5, 235-pound junior declared early and is projected among the top five selections overall and perhaps as high as No. 3.
He showed well athletically at the NFL combine – 4.62 40-yard dash and 33.5-inch vertical jump - and wooed NFL coaches with his strong right arm at Pro Day on the Missouri campus
Calm, personable and articulate, he spoke well during numerous character exams, and scored an impressive 42 in the infamous 12-minute, 50-question Wonderlic Test that grades cognitive ability. A score of 20 is considered average, 30 is impressive and 40 or more is outstanding.
Gabbert had the second-highest tally released among NFL prospects and was well above the average QB score of 24.
He was even more impressive in the much-publicized ESPN Quarterback Camp spot with Jon Gruden that featured Gabbert and other projected first-round picks Cam Newton, Ryan Mallett, Andy Dalton and Jake Locker.
"That was a blast," Gabbert said. "Coach Gruden is so passionate and his enthusiasm is so contagious. It was a great opportunity to sit down with a Super Bowl-winning coach who knows so much about the quarterback position in the league."
Beyond selling himself the last two months, on Wednesday he sold Missouri high school football.
While Texas, Florida and California kids get their due on NFL Draft and National Signing Day, the Show-Me State doesn't typically show. Gabbert, who starred at Parkway West (Ballwin, Mo.)
, begged to differ.
"Missouri is a great football and basketball state," he said. "A lot of great athletes come out of there."
Besides Gabbert, at least two others from Missouri figure to be picked in the first round on Thursday – Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn (Webster Groves
) and Missouri defensive end Aldon Smith (Raytown)
Gabbert also noted the Nebraska duo of tight end Mike McNeil (Kirkwood)
and guard Keith Williams
as other Missouri natives who will likely get drafted.
Considering the nation's No. 1 recruit in 2012
- Dorial Green-Beckham
of Hillcrest, Mo. - is also from Gabbert's home state, Missouri might just be a rising hotbed for football talent.
"I think it's always been competitive," Gabbert said.
Clayborn played against Gabbert and Parkway West as both a junior and sophomore, losing 35-28 and 35-25.
"You could see back then (Clayborn) was going to be a great player," Gabbert said. "He played tight end and linebacker and was versatile enough to move to defensive end in college."
Gabbert was a five-star recruit out of Parkway West and was limited to just 623 passing yards and five touchdowns in five games as a senior due to foot and shoulder injuries. The previous two seasons he threw for a combined 2,623 yards 31 touchdowns.
He wasn't cleared to throw by the last game of the season so instead moved to wide receiver where he caught passes from his younger brother Tyler.
"That was a real good thing to play with my brother," Gabbert said. "My shoulder ended up fine and I played at the U.S. Army All-American game. It was just one of those tough deals and bad timing your senior year."
Also a baseball standout, Gabbert said he's maintained friendships with many of his teammates from Parkway West, including Conner Mach and Steven May. They help to keep Gabbert grounded as his fame rises and personal life becomes more public.
"I just talked to them yesterday," he said.
He arrived early in New York on Tuesday – his first visit to The Big Apple – to promote the Gatorade
"Everything to Prove"
Among other things, Gabbert, along with 13 other NFL prospects, tested with the Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSS1). Gabbert tested during Super Bowl week to get a baseline result and retested on Tuesday.
"I started really paying attention to fitness and being in shape in middle school," Gabbert said. "Eating right, putting the right things in your body makes a difference."
It makes little difference who picks him today, he said. It's out of his control. With the NFL lockout tentatively in place, there's been no free agency and less communication than in past years.
"Really, it's just one of those wait-and-see propositions," he said. "The whole process to me has been fun. I enjoyed the recruiting process and this one as well. I can't wait to start my NFL career."