Staley Set to Make History For CMU Football

Four years ago coming out of Rockford (Mich.) High School, Joe Staley was overlooked by Big Ten programs. Today, the Central Michigan University offensive tackle is one of the top players in all of college football and is expected to be among the first players taken in Saturday's 2007 NFL Draft.

Offensive tackle Joe Staley has come a long way since the day he arrived at Central Michigan University in the summer of 2003 as a 6-foot-5, 215-pound tight end prospect.

Following his first season with the Chippewas, CMU decided to convert Staley to an offensive tackle, a move he was not happy with at first.

"It seems like only yesterday I came up to CMU as a 215-pound tight end," said Staley, now a hulking 6-6, 305-pounder. "At first I was not happy about moving to tackle, but I realize now what a great move it was for me."

A great move indeed.

Staley bulked up, but was still running a sub 4.7 40. That speed, strength and athleticism has made him the talk among many scouts leading up to this weekend's NFL Draft. One veteran NFL scout said Staley's CMU Pro Day workout last month was the finest he'd ever witnessed by an offensive tackle prospect.

Scout.com NFL expert Tom Marino believes Staley is every bit as talented as Wisconsin All-American Joe Thomas.

"As talented, smart, experienced, and consistent as Thomas is, it is my belief the real diamond at the position may well be Central Michigan's Joe Staley," Marino said. "Staley is not only an exceptional athlete, but he also is strong, has excellent footwork and is a natural knee bender with good blocking range.

"Now don't get me wrong. Thomas has performed at a high level for quite some time and will play at a championship level for a very long time, but by the same token I truly believe the multi-talented Staley is at the very least his playing equal and is no way near his full playing potential," Marino concluded.

On the eve of the 2007 NFL Draft, Staley is almost certain to be the first CMU football player in history to be taken in the first round.

"Right now I'm hearing for sure first round with the best case scenario being ninth or tenth pick," Staley said. "Coaches from the Ravens and Patriots have told me they don't think I'll be there when they pick (toward the end of the first round)."

Staley said the three teams that are showing the most interest right now are the Miami Dolphins, Houston Texans and New York Giants.

With the ninth and 10th picks respectively in the first round, the Dolphins or Texans could very well be Staley's future team.

"The scouts have told me they really like my footwork, natural athletic ability and great work ethic," Staley said.

Scout.com has Staley rated as the No. 2 offensive tackle in the draft and the No. 11 prospect overall. Thomas, who is rated ahead of Staley, is projected by many draft experts to be taken among the first five picks.

That could leave the Dolphins to choose between Staley and Penn State offensive tackle Levi Brown.

Regardless of where he's drafted, Staley realizes what a great day it's going to be, not just for he and his family, but for the CMU program too.

"If you can play football, the NFL is going to find you," Staley said. "We play big time college football here at CMU. I was talking to the Kansas City Chiefs the other day and they were just blown away watching (CMU quarterback) Dan LeFevour on film."

Staley said it speaks volumes about the CMU program that he and two of his Chippewa teamates, defensive end Daniel Bazuin and center Drew Mormino, are all expected to be drafted this weekend.

He feels that going up against Bazuin in practice the past three years made him a much better player.

"Dan is the hardest worker and the toughest player I've played against," Staley said. "His motor never stops."

Staley said he is also proud to be part of the great tradition of CMU offensive linemen, nicknamed the "Bubs," who've gone on to play in the NFL.

Staley and Mormino would join Eric Ghiaciuc and Adam Kieft, who both play for the Cincinnati Bengals, as former CMU offensive linemen in the NFL. Two others, Scott Rehberg and Brock Gutierrez, recently retired after playing a number of years in the NFL.

"It speaks volumes about the program at CMU that all those guys have gone on to play in the NFL," Staley said.

Kieft and Staley have something else in common. Both of them prepped at Rockford (Mich.) High School.

"Adam has bee a great mentor for me throughout my career," Staley said. "We talk about how awesome it's going to be to have two guys from Rockford in the league."

As excited as Staley is for draft day, he can't wait to see how the Chippewas do this fall in defending their 2006 Mid-American Conference Championship.

"I definitely look for CMU to repeat," Staley said.

He added that he has nothing but pleasant memories of his days at CMU.

"I'm not going to be a stranger here," Staley said. "I'm going to give back to CMU."

Chippewas head football coach Butch Jones couldn't be happier for Staley, Bazuin and Mormino.

"They're great football players, but they're even better people," Jones said. "They're all great ambassadors for the program."


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