Under-Radar TE: Mizzou's Waters

Eric Waters is the rare Missouri tight end: An exceptional athlete who isn't afraid to do the dirty work.

Eric Waters isn't your typical Missouri tight end.

To be sure, he lacks the name recognition of Chase Coffman and Michael Egnew, a pair of recent All-Americans who put up staggering receiving totals in the Tigers' wide-open offense.

Waters has almost no name recognition. He wasn't an All-American; heck, he wasn't even all-conference and he wasn't invited to the Scouting Combine. With eight catches as a senior, his numbers were anything but staggering.

Waters, however, has a good chance to be a better pro.

Waters (6-3, 250) placed himself on scouts' radars with a strong showing at Missouri's pro day. Between the pro day, one of the NFL's Regional Combines and the Super Regional Combine, he ran his 40-yard dash in 4.70 seconds and recorded an eye-popping 40-inch vertical.

"It was crucial," he said of his pro day. "It was either make it or you break it, right then and there. I didn't want football to end. I didn't want my chances of playing in the NFL cut in half if I had an average pro day or a below-average pro day. I wanted to have the best pro day. That was my goal."

Waters caught 14 passes in his career but his obvious athleticism gives him the potential of being a productive receiving threat. What separates Waters from Coffman, Egnew and those before him is his blocking.

"I do (take pride in blocking), because it took me a while to get it down," he said. "It was days and days where I was frustrated beyond belief because it wasn't right and it wasn't up to my standards that I wanted it to be. Now that I have it there, I really do take pride in just how good it is. It's good now but I know it can be so much better."

Waters acquired that mind-set on the practice field during training camp before the 2013 season. Offensive coordinator Josh Henson wasn't happy with what he was seeing from Waters — and he let him know it.

"Coach Henson, he was letting me know what I was doing wrong and said he just didn't see the passion and the fire of blocking in my eyes," Waters recalled. "I had to change my whole approach to the game."

It took a while for Waters to develop the correct mind-set. After all, Missouri tight ends were supposed to catch 80 or 90 passes.

"It was really difficult. I'm not going to lie," Waters said. "It took a lot of work because it was something that Missouri tight ends didn't practice much before. If you want to do something, if you want something bad enough, you'll do whatever it takes to be good or be great or as great as you want to be. I had to spend countless hours at nighttime learning hand placement and steps on certain run plays so I could be good. So, yeah, it was difficult."

Henson's message was driven home again by one of the coaches at the College All-Star Bowl, former Redskins and Bengals tight end Jim Riggs.

"It's not good enough to be good at just one thing," Waters said. "You have to be versatile. At that point, I started working on a lot more different things — lead blocking and things like that — so I can do everything. I do consider myself a three-down tight end. I'm that tight end that can block. I'm not afraid to block anybody."

Waters fits the mold of a Packers tight end, with the ability to play as a receiver, fullback and traditional tight end. His college career, while challenging mentally and physically, has put him in position for NFL success because of his ability to do a little of everything.

"I wasn't handed the opportunities that everybody else was (historically among Missouri's tight ends)," he said. "I didn't get nearly as many balls thrown my way. Blocking really helped me show that I can do that at the next level against the best competition. When pro day came around, I knew my hands weren't going to be a question. I knew I was going to catch every pass. It wasn't a matter that I had to show them; I knew it was going to be natural and that I was going to run great routes and everybody was going to be impressed with my hands."

Waters, who has worked out for the Patriots, figures to be a late-round selection or a priority free agent. However it winds up, Saturday is certain to be a memorable day.

"I'm not going to lie: I'm probably going to tear-up," he said. "One thing I told my dad since I was 5 years old is that I wanted to play in the NFL. It's going to be a very emotional day — very emotional day — when that phone rings."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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