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Last August, former San Jose State defensive lineman Jarron Gilbert put doubts from his peers to rest when he submerged himself in the shallow end of a pool, jumped out of a the water without using any leverage and landed on his feet. (Watch the Video)
Gilbert has since become a YouTube phenomenon, but he and the Spartan faithful know that the 6-foot-5, 288-pound beast of a man is more than just an aquatic leaper.
"I am a hard worker, loyal to my teammates and just want to win," Gilbert said. "I want them to take a hard look at me, and I think my film should explain everything they need to know."
Gilbert has impressed NFL teams, scouts, coaches and players during the last eight months, with his internet notoriety being just the beginning.
|Jarron Gilbert back on the practice field where he spent five years fine-tuning the football skills that will pay off in the upcoming NFL Draft|
Following a stellar senior season at San Jose State where he tallied 22.0 tackles-for-loss to go with 9.5 sacks and earned WAC Co-Defensive Player-of-the-Year honors, Gilbert's draft stock rapidly inflated after strong performances at the NFL Combine, Pro Day and during the East-West Shrine week.
The 2009 NFL Draft commences on April 25, and Gilbert has shifted his position from a relatively unknown late-rounder to a player who could be selected toward the end of the first round or early second round.
Gilbert told Inside Sparta the entire draft process has kept him quite occupied.
"I've just been trying taking it one day at a time," he said. "I started off working out at the combine so now I'm just trying to maintain my conditioning. I've been taking trips, had some business with a few clubs this month and attended some personal workouts."
Scout.com reported that Gilbert has visited or is planning on meeting with the 49ers, Chargers, Chiefs, Cowboys, Lions, Patriots, Saints and Steelers. All visits and private workouts must be completed by April 17, per league rules.
Between trips around the country, Gilbert has been working out in the San Jose area where he makes his offseason home.
"I've been staying in the weight room, staying strong and I've been out doing some sprints," Gilbert said. "I've Just been keeping my wind up because right after the draft you go to rookie camp so I don't want to show up there out of shape."
Pro Day at San Jose State perhaps gave Gilbert a taste of what is to come at the next level. Newly appointed Jets head coach Rex Ryan personally ran the workout, which is unusual for a person in his position to do, so there must be a serious interest in Gilbert from New York.
|Gilbert works with current Spartans Carl Ihenacho (No. 95), and Chad Bozzo (No. 5)|
The Jets hold the 17th overall pick and while no mock draft has Gilbert projected to go in that range of picks, defensive linemen are known to slowly creep up the charts on Draft Day.
Most mock drafts have Gilbert getting picked up in the early to middle second round. CBSSports.com placed him highest from a handful of credible mock drafts with the Indianapolis Colts grabbing him with the 27th overall selection. Yahoo! Sports positioned him as the 30th pick, going to the Tennessee Titans.
Gilbert admitted that he has no preference as to where he wants to play, and is just excited to be in the mix. Like most rookies-to-be, he did point out that he wants to play sooner than later.
"Definitely, I would like to play right away," Gilbert said. "I have a lot to learn so I want to get some experience right away."
Scouts have pointed out that Gilbert's best asset is his versatility on the D-line. He entered San Jose State weighing 240 pounds, and played defensive end the first two-and-a-half years of his collegiate career. Midway through his junior season, he switched to defensive tackle and added 40 pounds to become a formidable force in the trenches.
NFL teams that run a 3-4 defense will be looking at Gilbert as a DE, but with a 4-3 scheme he could play either tackle or end. So the question for organizations to answer around the league the next few weeks isn't whether or not Gilbert can play, but what position will he play?
Gilbert's athleticism for a big man is uncanny. He has a 37-inch vertical leap and his 40-yard time at Pro Day was 4.76 seconds. Gilbert has his family tree to thank for his abilities.
|Even though sporting a Lions sweater on Friday, Gilbert said he had no NFL preference. He said the sweater was a gift from the Lions' staff|
His father, Daren, was an offensive tackle for the New Orleans Saints from 1985-88 (drafted in the second round). Gilbert's uncle, Darren Comeaux, played 10 years in the NFL with the Broncos, 49ers and Seahawks while his aunt suited up for the L.A. Sparks of the WNBA. His cousin, Javale McGee, was the 18th overall selection by the Washington Wizards in the 2008 NBA Draft.
Regardless of where he ends up in the NFL, Gilbert claimed "without a doubt" he will be following Spartan football closely this year.
"They've got a lot of great players returning so things look promising," he said. "I know they have a tough schedule, but they've got a tough group of guys so you never know what can happen. Anybody can beat anybody on any given day. So it's a matter of what kind of attitude they go into the game with and how they perform. I feel they are really going to compete this year."
Scott Cooley is a Special Contributor to Inside Sparta. You may contact Scott with any questions, comments, or tips at firstname.lastname@example.org