LaQuan McGowan is not your average NFL Draft prospect. Baylor head coach Art Briles calls him “the most intimidating person playing the game today in the world.” So intimidating, in fact, that Briles banned McGowan from any contact in practice so he wouldn’t injure his own teammates.
At Baylor’s recent Pro Day, McGowan measured 405 pounds and just a shade under 6-foot-7. If he’s drafted, he will be the heaviest draft pick in NFL history. McGowan is such a massive human being that when he was in high school, he had to borrow shoes from Shaquille O’Neal to find proper-sized sneakers.
McGowan’s size alone is enough to turn heads, but the real reason he’s drawing attention from pro scouts is his athleticism. In addition to notching 30 reps on the Bench Press test, he also ran a 5.41 40-Yard Dash, jumped a 24-inch Vertical and clocked an 8.25 Three-Cone Drill. Those numbers might look pedestrian, but they’re outstanding for a player over 400 pounds.
McGowan’s unique skill set didn’t go unnoticed at Baylor. Though players with his proportions almost always play on the offensive or defensive line, McGowan was an All-Big 12 Honorable Mention at tight end last season. He totaled three catches for 41 yards and three touchdowns during his collegiate career.
So, how did the mammoth McGowan end up at tight end? Well, he came to Baylor as an offensive lineman. He was a three-star recruit coming out of high school and was rated the 92nd best offensive tackle prospect in the nation by ESPN.com. But even in high school, he exhibited exceptional athleticism. He was an outstanding basketball player, averaging 20.6 points, 13.8 rebounds and 4.3 blocks per game as a senior. He was the Texas 1A state champion in the shot put. He was even an all-district selection at place kicker.
McGowan spent his first couple of seasons at Baylor as a reserve offensive lineman, contributing mostly on special teams. But as time went on, Briles noticed he had a knack for catching the ball and was surprisingly fluid. Seeking to take advantage of McGowan’s special set of skills, Briles installed a red zone play where McGowan released downfield as a receiver. Baylor broke the play out in the 2015 Cotton Bowl, and it worked to perfection:
Last season, tight end became McGowan’s primary position. Though he was a talented offensive lineman, the team already had two very good tackles in Spencer Drango and Blake Muir. A switch to tight end allowed McGowan to get on the field more often as an extra blocker and occasionally go out for a pass. McGowan hauled in two more touchdown passes last season, including this soft-handed grab against Oklahoma:
McGowan wasn’t invited to the 2016 NFL Combine, but his strong performance at Baylor’s Pro Day might have opened some eyes around the league. He he doesn’t project to be an every-down player at the next level, but his size and athleticism could facilitate some creative play calls. “LaQuan is a freak of nature,” Briles told the Waco Tribune. “He’s a guy that just doesn’t exist anywhere.”
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