In one sense, they’ve been waiting for it only since their senior seasons ended last November.
But in another, former Cal Poly football players Courtney Brown and Kyle Shotwell have been waiting for this weekend for their entire lives.
Brown, a cornerback, and Shotwell, a linebacker, are widely expected to be chosen somewhere on the second day of the NFL Draft, which runs Saturday through Sunday. Depending on what team selects them or whom they sign with, potentially as undrafted free agents, both players could be in NFL mini-camps less than two weeks from today.
“Real anxious,” Brown said. “It’s been a long week, longest of my life. I’m ready to get it over with. This week, (there are) a lot of teams contacting you, want to know last-minute what your information is, all that stuff.”
Brown said he will likely spend draft weekend with his family in Oakland, but was not yet sure whether he would watch the draft, which will be televised on ESPN, ESPN2 and NFL Network.
Shotwell also said he expects to spend the weekend with his family, but was not yet decided whether they would stay home in Goleta or spend Sunday at the Irvine office of his agent, Ryan Tollner.
“My agent says there’s a possibility of me literally going anywhere on the second day,” said Shotwell, who recently flew to Indianapolis to meet with the Colts. “It depends on how the draft is shaking out, where a team would want to pick me. (Monday) I had a good conversation with (Tollner), he said, ‘I’d be pretty shocked if you go undrafted.’ Fifth round on, there’s a good chance of my name being called.”
As for where Brown hopes to come off the board, he simply said, “as high as possible.”
Extended mock drafts popping up all over the Internet have Brown going as early as the fourth round and Shotwell as early as the sixth.
Neither player was invited to February’s NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. All of the players who went on the first day of last year’s draft – including Cal Poly defensive end Chris Gocong (71st overall to Philadelphia) – were invited to the combine. Only 14 players in the last nine drafts were taken on the first day after not being invited to the combine.
Both players, though, saw their stock soar after stellar Pro Day workouts.
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Brown ran a 4.32-second 40-yard dash and posted a 41 1/2-inch vertical leap March 6 at San Jose State’s Pro Day.
The 6-1, 235-pound Shotwell ran a 40 gauged between 4.52 and 4.62 seconds at Cal Poly’s Pro Day on March 26.
Shotwell explained that mock drafts are often wrong, though, in forecasting the draft because the pundits and analysts are not always privy to information exchanged between players and scouts on Pro Days and more importantly, they do not know what NFL executives are thinking.
“Those guys who make the mock drafts don’t know that stuff,” Shotwell said.
Shotwell added that chain reactions can occur that lead to players rising or falling on the board.
“So much of the draft is team need,” Shotwell said. “Say the Miami Dolphins have me rated as a fifth-round draft pick, but they need a defensive tackle there. They might take the tackle there and I might slide down to another team.”
Brown is ranked the 17th-best corner in the draft class by NFLDraftScout.com and No. 23 by NFLDraftCountdown.com.
“I’m one of the elite corners in the draft,” Brown said. “It’s a matter of conveying that to the people who are drafting.”
In terms of improvement, Brown said he has been focusing recently on the same things most other defensive backs are at this time, foremost for Brown backpedaling and footwork.
Neither Brown nor Shotwell’s production has been questioned.
Brown set a Division I-AA school record with seven interceptions as a junior, and as a senior anchored a secondary that was part of a defense that gave up the second-fewest passing yards per game (133) among 121 I-AA teams.
Shotwell rang up 280 tackles and 12 sacks in his final two seasons at Cal Poly. In January, he had seven tackles in the East-West Shrine Game, at which he received the Pat Tillman Inspirational Award for showing character and work ethic. Among the voters on the award were the game’s two head coaches, Don Shula and Dan Reeves, and West linebackers coach Mike Singletary.
“Everything I could have done from winning the Buchanan to leading the Shrine Game in tackles, everything I’ve done to establish myself as an NFL-caliber prospect, I’ve done it,” Shotwell said.
Shotwell, though, said he would go right to work if he is an undrafted free agent the same way as if he gets drafted late.
“I’m going to be the steal of the draft,” Shotwell said. “I have confidence I can play at that level. For whatever reason I wasn’t invited to the combine. Whoever’s gonna pass on me, it’s going to be my goal to prove all those teams wrong.”
Shotwell has already completed his work toward a degree with a major in political science and a minor in psychology. He said he talks “almost every day” with former Cal Poly linebacker Jordan Beck, a close friend who is now the starting middle linebacker for the Atlanta Falcons after the team tabbed him in the third round in 2005.
“Right now it’s starting to get tough as far as waiting,” Shotwell said. “You feel kind of vulnerable. I’ve graduated. I’ve got a lot more time on my hands than Jordan did. Right now it’s the calm before the storm.”
The culmination, though, feels near for a player whose collegiate career ranks among the best in school history.
“There’s no way I could be in this position if not for coaches to professors and friends and family,” Shotwell said. “I’m so thankful to San Luis Obispo and the community for what they’ve meant to my life. I feel so blessed.”
Brown and Shotwell, though, are not the only two graduating Cal Poly players on the NFL Draft radar.
Cal Poly head coach Rich Ellerson said April 10 that nose tackle Chris White, who projects as a defensive end at the next level, could be taken late. Free safety Kenny Chicoine should also have the chance to get in a camp, Ellerson said.
“It’s exciting,” Brown said of ascending to the next level with his teammates. “I’ve been working out with Kyle and Kenny since before this thing began.”