The NFL Draft can be a whirlwind for any prospect who is all about becoming one of the best to ever play in the league. For hopeful NFL Draftee Garrett Gilbert, that’s no exception. But the annual NFL selection meeting, which starts Thursday and runs through Saturday, will be the culmination of the ride Gilbert has endured through the last few years as a quarterback.
Gilbert was the consensus 2008 national high school player of the year at Lake Travis High School in Austin, Texas. In his senior year with his high school he was undefeated and threw for 4,851 yards, 55 touchdowns and six interceptions. It seemed like he was untouchable as he was graduating and moving on to his “dream school” in the University of Texas.
Fortunes quickly changed for the 6’4″, 223 lb signal-caller as he followed Longhorn great quarterbacks Vince Young and Colt McCoy. He didn’t fit into the greatness that many expected from him and of course who preceded him at Texas.
In 2009, Gilbert appeared in 10 games and completed 45.5 percent of his passes for only 310 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions. The year 2010 was Gilbert’s season to prove he was the real deal and the next UT great quarterback. However, he passed for 2,744 yards with 10 touchdowns to 17 interceptions.
The season ended with a 37-21 loss to No. 1 Alabama. Having replaced McCoy due to injury in the title game, Gilbert pulled Texas within a field goal with six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. He only completed 15 of 40 attempts for 186 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions in the loss.
Injuries and a lack of production derailed Gilbert’s career at Texas. Even though Gilbert was considered the man after high school, things were not the same and he needed a change. Johnny Manziel was the quarterback getting all the attention in his first season with Texas A&M. Gilbert transferred to Southern Methodist and became a Mustang after 2011.
Even through the rough times at Texas, it strengthened Gilbert and re-shifted his focus back towards positivity.
“I think it’s helped me tremendously being in a tough situation at Texas by learning a lot of things about the game,” Gilbert said during a phone interview. “My freshman year we went to the National Title game. My sophomore year was a letdown in terms of National Title and it transferred into next season. I played inconsistently, forced things to happen. I had some learning to do and that caused things into a bad situation. A combo of a lot of things.”
With the transfer to SMU, he was coached by offensive guru June Jones, who steered him back in the right direction.
“Coach Jones had the confidence in me as well as the other guys on the team who had faith in me,” Gilbert said. “Being able to have confidence in me in throwing the ball around.”
In 2012, Gilbert’s first season with the Mustangs, he passed for 2,932 yards with 15 touchdowns and as many interceptions, but it was last season that things clicked for him. He enjoyed by far his best season as he accumulated 3,528 yards with 21 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
After a fantastic senior campaign, Gilbert hired Leigh Steinberg, who was the premier NFL super agent in the hay days of Troy Aikman and Steve Young. Steinberg fell off the map after enduring bankruptcy and sobriety issues.
Now he’s back in the fold with Steinberg Sports & Entertainment with Gilbert as his first significant name. Gilbert loves Steinberg’s past history with quarterbacks and that’s one of the reasons why he chose him as his agent.
“One of the main reasons why I chose Leigh was his pedigree of representing quarterbacks. He was interested in me so it’s been a good partnership,” Gilbert said. “He’s been doing a lot behind the scenes with coach [June] Jones and talking with different teams. He’s been talking with me about the draft process. He’s done a lot for me.”
Gilbert’s was connected with many teams throughout the process, including Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Carolina and Philadelphia, according to other reports. While his name isn’t in the same conversation as Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater, that’s not deterring the former Texas and SMU quarterback.
“I don’t know if it gives me extra motivation. I’m not going to try to prove a point, but just try to be the best QB for whoever gives me the opportunity.”
NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah doesn’t see much promise for Gilbert, saying, “I talked to a lot of people around the league the last couple months, and I promise you I’ve never heard his name come up one time.”
Even if his name doesn’t come up until the mid to late rounds of the draft, that doesn’t mean his future isn’t bright. The Super Bowl winning quarterback last year, Russell Wilson, was a third round selection. Tom Brady, who is a future Hall of Famer, has three Super Bowl titles with the New England Patriots after being a sixth round pick.
Gilbert believes all his ups and downs will make him successful at the next level. It’s not that the higher level graded signal-callers haven’t gone through any tough times and adversity, but through his playing days specifically and on the field troubles, he feels he’s better prepared for the future ahead.
“I think it’s a combination of being through adversity that other quarterbacks haven’t been through that makes me into a stronger player. I’ve played in four different offenses in college so my knowledge of the game is up there.”
Gilbert will be sitting on the couch, watching the draft coverage on ESPN and waiting just like everyone else to see where he is selected. The first round is on Thursday, the next two rounds Friday and the final four on Saturday.
“I’ll be sitting on a couch at home with my family, friends.”