When I say 2004 draft, what do you think? Possibly a draft stocked with talent at the QB position?
Eli Manning and Phillip Rivers being two of those very talented players at their position were projected to go high and had above average careers as college athletes. One man that was a little under the radar and not as popular was a player out of the University of Miami Ohio.
His name was Ben Roethlisberger, not a star-studded athlete, but definitely a player that was seen in the eyes of many front office personnel as a starting QB in the league one-day.
Well it’s been 10 years since that draft and ironically, a decade later, a player is emerging in almost the same fashion as Roethlisberger did. A small school, not well respected, and under the radar are all categories under which both Blake Bortles and Roethlisberger found themselves heading out of college.
On top of that, they are built in almost an identical way and their playing style is almost mirror images of each other. While Bortles mobility is considered to be better, their pocket awareness and presence is very similar too.
We’ve all seen what Big Ben has been able to do during his career in the NFL, so does this mean Bortles can expect much of the same? Well, predicting careers is nearly impossible to do. Look back to Jamarcus Russell… then look at Tom Brady.
Get my point?
But there is something about Bortles that has made a lot of people fall in love. Is it his under the radar presence? Is it his relaxed demeanor on and off the field? Or is it his story about playing in the shadows of UF QB Jeff Driskel in High School, getting only five scholarship offers, only one being to play QB, only being a 2 year starter, and eventually leading his Knights to a Fiesta Bowl win?
Needless to say, he plays with a chip on his shoulder but the best part about him is that it doesn’t show. He doesn’t get flashy or cocky, he doesn’t feel like the world owes him something, he just goes out on the field every week and gets the job done.
While he does seem to be a little quiet, many have talked about his leadership ability on and off the field. I was able to catch up with Bortles’ Center, Joey Grant, and ask him a few questions.
Me: “Comment on Blake in terms of his Leadership on and off the field.”
I mean he’s a great leader he does everything you ask on and off the field always leading by example doing everything right. – Joey Grant
Joey said it right, “…leading by example.”
It seems like anyone can scream and fire up their team… which is great, but that’s not Blake Bortles now and that wont be him in the future. Bortles leads by performance. Not only that, his leadership resonates to his teammates and provides the extra motivation for them. When they see Bortles put his heart out there… they do too.
Me: “What was it like playing along side of Blake and how do you feel about his future in the NFL?”
It was an awesome experience playing with him not only being a great player but a great friend that I’ve lived with for 4 years. I think he will succeed in the NFL knowing him for so long I know how hard he works and that he will do everything he can for whatever team he plays for to win week in and out. – Joey Grant
That’s some pretty high praise from a former teammate, and speaks volumes about Bortles both on and off the field.
At the end of the day, Bortles has gone through football and was never use to having it easy. Nothing was ever given to him. He has worked hard in every facet of the game to get to where he is today. This type of player seems to only want to do the same in the NFL.
While he wasn’t highly recruited out of high school, he is now potentially a number one pick, but this doesn’t mean he’s forgotten where he started. Sometimes its best to have these types of players on your team because they know there is no easy recipe to success that doesn’t require hard work, dedication and maybe… just maybe, an opportunity.
Follow Justin on Twitter @Cover32_Justin.