Luke Joeckel has yet to play a down in the National Football League, yet his draft bio page on the league's official website projects the left tackle as a "Future Hall of Famer."
How's that for a welcome to the pros?
There are many reasons why Joeckel is ranked so high. Durability, for one. At Texas A&M, he started every game, beginning as a true freshman; and in his three-year career, he never missed a start. Versatility, for another. He was the cornerstone of an Aggies O-line that ran two dramatically different offenses during his tenure: the pro-style scheme managed by Ryan Tannehill and the spread attack led by Johnny Manziel. That kind of diversity is rare, but it allowed Joeckel to show that he is likely to succeed playing in any system.
So what does a player with such an impressive résumé do to make himself even better before the NFL Draft?
Well, something like that.
At IMG Academy, the training center where Joeckel sharpened up before the Combine, the big tackle relentlessly practiced agility drills. Loren Seagrave, IMG's director of speed and movement, calls it the "Arthur Murray Dance School of football training."
"We actually put footprints on the ground to show guys where they have to put their feet," Seagrave says.
Joeckel's deft footwork and exceptional balance were on display as he completed the Kick Slide Drill, a basic pass protection movement for left tackles in which you are forced to open up at a 45-degree angle and kick slide to your left to steer a pass rusher out of the pocket and away from the QB. Joeckel moved seamlessly through the drill, delivering powerful punches to the approaching defender.
"It becomes automatic to him on the field, where a situation comes up and he needs to get in the right spot to get in front of a pass rusher to cut them off, or shut them down on a bull rush," says Seagrave.
It's not as if the large-framed Joeckel lacked athleticism. But the more he absorbed during these movement sessions, the more finesse he brought to his rough-and-rugged O-line skill set.
"I'm flexible and can bend and move in short areas, which is important for offensive linemen," Joeckel says. "In the trenches, my knees and feet are close to the ground and I'm pounding powerful steps."
The choreography at IMG paid off at the NFL Combine in February, where Joeckel finished among the leaders in his position group in the Three-Cone Drill agility test. In so doing, he moved one step closer to becoming the top pick in the April Draft.
And although he earns praise for his fancy footwork and flawless technique, Joeckel expects his style in the NFL to be a bit less elegant. He says, "I want to be a blue-collared guy, a hard-nosed player who's known for dominating one-on-one match-ups."
Photo: Glen Johnson, Texas A&M
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock