With all the attention surrounding high-profile quarterbacks Johnny Manziel of Texas A & M and Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville, it’s unheralded Blake Bortles of Central Florida who could very well be the first quarterback taken in this year’s draft.
In fact, he could be the first player taken, period.
Bortles’ stock has climbed in recent weeks, to the point where he will be a major consideration for the Texans with the No. 1 overall pick.
Surprised? Bortles isn’t.
“That’s why I’m here, that’s why I’m invited [to the Scouting Combine],” Bortles said. “I believe that I can compete with any guy here, and that’s why I’m doing everything I’m doing. That’s why I’m throwing, that’s why I’m running, doing all this stuff. Why wait till pro day when you have an opportunity to make your first impression here in Indianapolis. I grew up watching this as a kid and dreamed of competing in it, why would I sit anything out and do any of that kind of stuff? Just excited to be here and honored to be here, but definitely believe I belong here.”
Most elite quarterbacks who figure to be top 10 picks opt not to participate in most of the on-field drills at the Combine, choosing instead to participate in their respective schools’ pro day. It’s a more controlled environment there, compared to the drills that players are put through at the Combine.
But Bortles says he has nothing to hide and can only be helped by the process. He has prototype size at 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, but there are still questions about whether he can be an NFL-ready quarterback, especially at the outset of his career.
Bortles models his career after some of the NFL's legendary quarterbacks – and some who may soon become legends – he has followed as a young player.
“I grew up, Brett Favre was my hero,” he said. “Just idolized the toughness and passion he played the game with. But I mean, guys playing now, I think physically Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck, I think are both great athletic guys that extend plays and throw off platform and do that. I think mentally, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. By no means am I those guys. They’re the best at what they do, as far as running the no huddle, controlling the defense, controlling tempo and things of that such. But 100 percent believe that eventually I can do what those guys do, and that’s the goal.”
If Bortles does go to the Texans at No. 1, it might be because Texans coach Bill O'Brien saw firsthand just how good he can be. Bortles pulled off a 34-31 upset of O'Brien's Penn State team last season.
"He played well. They beat us and I thought he threw the ball well that night. Obviously I have a connection with (UCF coach) George O'Leary and their coaching staff thinks very highly of him there," said O'Brien, who coached for O'Leary at Georgia Tech in the 1990's. "He's a big guy. He's athletic. He's a competitive guy. So it's been fun to watch him play on tape."