When 32 teams, six head coaches and an estimated 125 NFL personnel people attend your college pro day, you’ve done well for yourself.
Coming from a spread offense, it’s only right Missouri signal caller Blaine Gabbert disperses his offensive repertoire in the NFL.
Like many spread quarterbacks, people question if the Missouri junior can evolve his game and succeed under center at the pro level.
So far, Gabbert has shown ability to be an athletic passer. At his recent Mar. 17 pro day, six NFL head coaches were reportedly in attendance including 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh. The attendees wanted to see if the 6-foot-5, 234-pound passer could make all every throw from under center.
NFL Network draft guru Mike Mayock’s top-ranked quarterback threw 61 of 63 passes from under center at his pro day and completed a very high percentage. By most accounts, Gabbert looked comfortable in his first public throwing display since the Insight Bowl on Dec. 28. Like many top quarterback talents of years past, Gabbert did not throw at the NFL Scouting Combine.
On the other hand, his public speaking performance went over well in Indianapolis. Nailing the interview process was his sole focus.
“That's so instrumental in drafting a quarterback,” he explained at the combine. “You've got to show that you're smart. You've got to be able to show that you're smart on the board. Be able to talk in person. And then of course doing the running drills.”
Gabbert did every testing drill but the bench press. He ran a 4.61, 40-yard dash and posted a 10-foot broad jump.
By electing not to throw at the Scouting Combine, Gabbert gave himself more time to work on footwork and throwing mechanics which he recently unveiled at his pro day. Electing to throw in a controlled environment was important to Gabbert, who insisted he wasn't shying from competition.
Gabbert’s quite aware of his standing as one of the top quarterbacks available, 18 wins in the past two seasons should give him that consideration.
Gabbert and Cam Newton are competing to be first quarterback taken and potentially the first overall pick. Knowing that, Gabbert has done well in showing talent evaluators his dedications in making himself into a pro-ready quarterback.
His goal is to be in the running for the No. 1 pick and his pro day only cemented that as a realistic option. The opportunity to be the first selection is not being taken lightly by Gabbert.
“This opportunity doesn't come around very often,” he said. “It's a once in a lifetime chance, and I'm going to make the most of it.”
Gabbert knows Newton is in the top-pick conversation, but it’s not something to get overly concerned with. Instead, he is focused on his own draft standing and not the Heisman Trophy winners.
“Cam's an explosive athlete. You've seen what he has done at the college level. He's won a JUCO national championship, won the national championship at Division I level,” Gabbert said. “He's been extremely successful, so he has all the talent in the world but we're going to compete and fight it out and may the best man win.”
If it came down to film review, Newton’s most recent season would have a solid advantage.
But game tape doesn’t tell the whole story with Gabbert. He’s flashed major ability, but hasn’t had the production that some people crave. In 2010, he threw for 3,186 yards with only 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions in a 10-win season.
Gabbert enjoyed more production as a sophomore throwing for 3,593 yards with 24 touchdowns and nine interceptions. It was that early success that led him to the front of the team as a captain, uncommon ground for Missouri underclassmen.
“We only had senior captains,” Gabbert detailed. “Being a junior, being the quarterback you're the spotlight, and you have to lead your team to victory. You're the vocal leader on that football team. That was the biggest thing I did at Mizzou.”
Leaving teammates behind was tough for a team leader. But ultimately, Gabbert felt like he was close to finishing his degree in finance and he was ready go after a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Gabbert has reportedly held meetings, dinners and workouts with a slew of teams already including the first team on the board, the Carolina Panthers.
The spread versus pro style conversation is surely prevalent in those meetings. Gabbert has been solid primarily in the shotgun formation. His 6,822 passing yards rank fourth all-time in school history and his 40 touchdown are third-best.
That success doesn’t always translate to the NFL. But it hasn’t stopped pro teams from projecting spread quarterbacks to pro schemes. Last year’s top pick, Sam Bradford, came from a similar offensive situation at Oklahoma.
The comparison is even more appropriate since Gabbert is training with quarterback coach Terry Shea at Athletes Performance in Tempe, Ariz. Shea trained Bradford prior to the 2010 NFL Draft and routinely stressed the quarterback fundamentals used in the pro level.
It’s that relationship that has Gabbert most confident in becoming a pro-style quarterback.
“He's an awesome coach and even a better person,” Gabbert said. “He really relates to us on a personal level. He's coached, of course, Sam, Matthew Stafford and Josh Freeman.
“He’s done a wonderful job with me so far. And I know he's made those guys better quarterbacks as well.”
Gabbert can point to his relationship with Shea, as well as the progress of other perceived spread prospects in the NFL. At the combine, Gabbert singled out Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy and Bradford as young college spread quarterbacks who performed well early in their NFL careers.
“These guys have had all success in their rookie seasons, so I really don't see the problem with being a spread quarterback in college,” Gabbert said. “If you're good, you're good, and you're going to play wherever.”
Gabbert wants to be the best he can be and knows he has the mindset to get there.
“I'm going to outwork everybody,” he said. “That's how I was raised. But nothing's ever going to be given you in life. You've got to learn everything you get.”