What do Antonio Gates, Julius Thomas and Jimmy Graham have in common? They were all college basketball stars who decided to give football a shot after their hoops careers ended. The next hardwood-to-gridiron crossover you should look out for? George Fant.
Fant was a four-year letter winner in basketball at Western Kentucky University, playing mostly as a power forward for the Hilltoppers. A three-time All-Conference selection, Fant averaged 13.8 points and 8.4 rebounds per game in the 2014-2015 season. By the time he exhausted his basketball eligibility at WKU, he was their 13th all-time leading scorer (1,621 points) and eighth all-time leading rebounder (894).
Though he had a nice career, Fant's chances of making the NBA were slim. He certainly could've landed a contract to play basketball overseas, and he had a shot at the NBA D-League. But while he was mulling his options, Fant started hearing from NFL teams. They were intrigued by his size and athleticism and wanted to know if he had any desire to play football. Fant hadn't played the game since middle school, but when he learned about all the former college hoopsters now in the NFL, he became intrigued.
"You look at what some of the guys who played basketball have been able to do in the NFL, it gets your attention," Fant told the Lexington Herald-Leader. His basketball eligibly was exhausted, but the NCAA allows athletes a fifth season of eligibility as long as they use it to play a different sport. So last season, Fant joined the WKU football team. He appeared in 12 games, catching one pass for seven yards and playing mainly on special teams. He did not post incredible stats, but his performance at WKU's recent Pro Day got NFL scouts buzzing.
Measuring in at a muscular 6-foot-5, 296 pounds, Fant showcased ridiculous athleticism for an athlete of his size. He recorded a 4.83-second 40-Yard Dash, a 37-inch Vertical Jump, a 9-foot-11 Broad Jump and 22 reps on the Bench Press test.
— Clif Marshall (@ClifMarshall) March 29, 2016
Fant's current height and weight compare most closely to an NFL offensive tackle. If you compare his Pro Day numbers to historical NFL Combine data for offensive tackles, it quickly becomes clear he's a freakish outlier. For some perspective, in the past 10 NFL Combines:
- Only two offensive lineman recorded a 40 time faster than 4.83
- No offensive lineman recorded a Vertical Jump higher than 37 inches (the best since 2006 was 35.5)
- No offensive lineman recorded a Broad Jump further than 9-11 (the best since 2006 was 9-10)
With those speed and explosiveness numbers, Fant could reasonably be considered the most athletic offensive tackle prospect in years. His Bench Press wasn't quite as impressive, but 22 reps would have put him firmly in the middle of the pack for offensive lineman at the 2016 Combine.
Fant's Pro Day jersey listed him as an offensive lineman, but he's open to playing any position. "I just want to be an athlete," Fant told the Bowling Green Daily News. "I can play tight end, offensive tackle, defensive tackle, D-end. Where you want to put me at, I'm going to learn it. That's the kind of person I've always been. If you need me to long-snap, I'll long-snap. I'll do it. I'm just keeping an open mind and open heart." Fant would make a huge target at tight end, and he showed off soft hands at his Pro Day:
— Billy Rutledge (@BillyRsports) March 29, 2016
During his final season on the WKU basketball team, Fant was listed at 250 pounds, so he's put on nearly 50 pounds over the last year. However, not many 300-pound football players are this lean and muscular:
Here's photo I posted of 300-pound George Fant if you missed it. Dude is huge. pic.twitter.com/eK58fFxxky
— Zach Greenwell (@zach_greenwell) March 29, 2016
Fant's football skills are undoubtedly raw, but there's no doubt his rare blend of size and athleticism will catch the attention of NFL teams.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock