Graduation 2015—a day filled with pomp and circumstance, the perfect ending to the fairytale known as college. There go the four “best” years of your life, gone in the blink of an eye.
If you imagined endless rows of maroon caps lined across the Alumni turf shadowed by a picturesque silhouette of Gasson looming on the horizon, you were sadly mistaken. Think further away---about a thousand miles west actually. Say “goodbye” to Beantown and pay your dues to the Windy City. Crossing the stage of Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre at Roosevelt University, expect to shake a hand other than Fr. Leahy’s. Instead, meet your new boss, Roger Goodell, commissioner of the National Football League.
Welcome to the 2015 NFL Draft, where a Boston College football player walks away with a degree in the gridiron. Just like any other postgraduate entering the great, scary depths of the job market, these athletes face the daunting task of earning a spot on an NFL roster. Thanks to the likes of Jamarus Russell and the guaranteed $32 million contract he stole from the 2007 Oakland Raiders, NFL owners sought to even their leverage with the NFL Players Union. As a result, the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement placed a salary cap on rookies, extending first-round rookie contracts to a minimum of four years with plenty of escape clauses sprinkled throughout. Translated: Never call an NFL roster spot guaranteed.
This year’s crop of talent from the Heights bears little promise, if any at all. Only center Andy Gallik received an invitation to the 2015 NFL Combine, leaving former star Tyler Murphy to wait at home for his Pro Day. Even Gallik, who draws comparisons to current New England Patriots center Bryan Stork, projects as a generous mid-third round pick. Arguably the second best center prospect in this year’s draft, Gallik turned quite a few heads for the raw potential he flashed at the Boston College pro day.
Unfortunately, a wide gap of talent separates Gallik from the rest of his fellow Eagles. Scouts view linemen Ian Silberman and Bobby Vardaro as early seventh round draft choices, players that present tremendous upside as a result of their massive size. On the flip side, defensive end Brian Mihalik’s lack of height and length force many professional teams to question his pass-rushing ability at the next level. In the NFL, coaches expect tackles to handle one-on-one coverage with relative ease, especially against defensive ends unable to use their size as an advantage. In a league that lives and dies on keeping the quarterback upright, a wise team will think twice before wasting their draft pick on this defensive end, unless of course Mihalik discovers a few nifty moves to break through the trenches.
What about Tyler Murphy? The owner of the ACC’s single season quarterback rushing record has certainly seen better days. Once the centerpiece of a bowl-bound Boston College offense, Tyler Murphy struggles mightily to hone in on the fundamental passing skills required to thrive in an NFL offense. Never a pure pocket passer, Murphy faces a career-defining dilemma: switch positions or quit. Murphy’s blazing speed balanced with his innate tendency to find space and hit gaps practically screams “running-back.” However, the quarterback’s 6’2’’ frame illustrates a different story—that of a slot receiver. Seeing the success of players such as Julian Edelman, who oozed athleticism yet changed position in the NFL, Tyler Murphy must swallow his pride and follow suit. The consequences, one may ask? Wallow in a ceaseless summer of minicamps and scout teams, enduring the hard, cold life of an undrafted rookie free agent.
Naturally, graduation anywhere brings about a healthy competitive atmosphere. Alumni work to out perform one another, seeing who builds the greatest legacy. To quote the great Babe Ruth, “Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.” What legacies do the likes of Murphy and Gallik return to Chestnut Hill five or ten years down the road? Maybe they join the likes of Matt Ryan and Luke Kuechly, perennial Pro Bowl stars who elevated their game to a whole new level upon leaving BC. Failure draws parallels to ghosts of draft-busts past, an ever-growing list featuring former Eagle Ron Brace. A second-round pick in 2009, Brace struggled to control his weight, failing to embrace the lofty expectations of morphing into the next Vince Wilfork or Haloti Ngata.
On April 30th, the 2015 NFL Draft festivities begin. Team hat in one hand, jersey in the other, each college football player walks off the stage no longer a “blue chip recruit” or a "big man on campus."
No more AP Preseason Rankings. No more two-a-days. No more conference competition.
Welcome to the real world, rookie.
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