Early Friday morning, Unversity of Delaware quarterback Joe Flacco entered
the media room at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis for a press
But unlike current presidential candidates John McCain, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama, Flacco wasn't mugging for the cameras. He wasn't shaking hands or looking for a baby to kiss.
He looked serious. He looked like a man with a job to do. And at that particular moment, his job was to field a few questions from the media.
But Joe Flacco, a former University of Pittsburgh backup, appeared to be a bit resigned to the fact that he was going to have to answer the same questions he's been asked over and over again during the past 2 months. Flacco-mania had clearly sucked some of the enthusiasm for media appearances out of the 23-year old player.
And even Flacco doesn't seem to understand his celebrity-like status.
"I keep saying if I wasn't myself, I don't know if I'd like myself too much right now," he said in regards to the extraordinary amount of media attention. "I'd probably be sick of myself."
After throwing for over 4,200 yards and 23 touchdowns during his senior year,
the 6-foot-6, 232-pound signal caller thrust himself into the national spotlight
with his NFL prototypical size and arm strength while working out of Delaware's
spread formation. And he was so accurate in the short and medium passing game
that he threw just five interceptions his senior year.
After starting his collegiate career at Pittsburgh, Flacco transferred to the University of Delaware in 2005 when it became apparent that he wasn't going to take the starting quarterback job from Tyler Palko.
"I didn't want to leave my playing time to chance," Flacco explained. "I wanted to go somewhere where I could compete for a job, and Delaware was that place.
"They were a team that had recruited me out of high school and I didn't have too many other options."
The fact that he played in the Football Championship Subdivision of Division I rather than the Football Bowl Subdivision has been a constant source of questions for Flacco. But he doesn't see the why that should make a difference.
"I don't think I have too much to prove at this point. I think if you watch the film you can see enough," he said. "I think if you can play, you can play."
And Flacco wanted everyone to know that he was proud of the level of competition he played against while propelling Delaware deep into the postseason playoffs.
"We made it to the [FCS] National Championship — which nobody really wants to talk about — but we did get there," he said. "That was a big accomplishment for us and I think it bodes well for me."
Another issue creating some debate over Flacco's draft-selection positioning is Delaware's use of the spread formation, an aggressive, passer-friendly offense that allowed him to work primarily out of the shotgun. So will NFL teams show some hesitation about investing a first-round pick on him due to his lack of experience in a pro-style offense?
Joe Flacco answers questions following a Senior Bowl practice.
"There might be a little bit [of hesitation], but it still comes down to decision-making and how good you are in the pocket. I think I'm pretty good at all those things and hopefully they will see that."
Flacco also pointed out that his lack of work under center due to Delaware's offensive scheme is a bit of a myth or at least a misperception.
"If you look at my film, I was probably under center 50 percent of the time this year, not necessarily passing out of it, but I took snaps. So taking snaps is not a problem," he said. "I'm just getting used to it. And actually, coming from Pittsburgh, I had to adjust to the shotgun because we were strictly under center there."
After a solid, but unspectacular performance at the Senior Bowl last month,
Flacco will do a full workout at the Combine in Indianapolis with the exception
of the bench press. Not participating in the drills, like many of the other top
quarterbacks wasn't really an option in his mind. But when he was asked why he
wasn't going to do the bench press, Flacco broke into a smile, showing new
Maybe it was because the answer was obvious to him.
Or maybe because someone had finally asked him a new question for a change.
"I'm a quarterback, man. What do you want me to do, do it one time," he asked, creating a roar of laughter in the room. "Even if I was a big bench-press guy, I don't think I'd do it because there is a chance of you getting hurt. And it's just something stupid. It's not worth it."
Flacco knows that over the next few weeks, more questions and even criticism will be coming his way as team representatives, the media and draft pundits put his mechanics and ability to lead an NFL team under a microscope. But he's not worried.
"They can say all they want and put all the pressure on me they want," he said. "I have as thick a skin as you're going to have. Bring it at me."
The bottom line for Joe Flacco is he wants to keep playing football. And he's NFL-ready. His rise to being named among the top quarterbacks in this year's NFL Draft is good fortune in his mind, not something he expected. What he really wants is a fair chance to compete. Nothing more, nothing less.
"Was I thinking about being a first-round draft pick last year at this time? No," he said. "I was thinking about being a draft pick — period. Anywhere that I'm picked, I'm going to be happy."