MOBILE, Ala. -- Count Frank Scelfo in, yet another in a rapidly growing line of Jimmy Garoppolo admirers. Scelfo is the Jaguars quarterbacks coach and this week one of the hands-on mentors for Garoppolo at the Senior Bowl.
As of last week, he had heard from two fellow Jaguars assistants of the buzz Garoppolo had begun to generate at the East-West Shrine Game.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Scelfo was ready to attest that the promising quarterback from Eastern Illinois was indeed the real deal.
First eye-catching trait: the zip with which Garoppolo gets rid of the ball.
Purposeful. Efficient. Tight delivery.
"Such a quick release," Scelfo said. "The ball jumps out of his hand."
The coach's deeper appreciation: the aptitude Garoppolo is showing this week in discussing offensive concepts.
"In his experience, he has thrown so many balls. He has seen so many different things," Scelfo said. "So when you talk to him, right off the bat, he's asking questions about plays and coverages and this and that and that. It was easy to see how his mind was connecting and translating from the board and from the screen."
So here is Garoppolo, a product of Rolling Meadows High, embracing opportunity and continuing to steal the first scenes of a seemingly endless predraft process.
The Garoppolo buzz is undeniable and growing. And the goal, of course, will be to sustain it for the next 15 weeks so all this January praise produces a rewarding NFL draft weekend in May.
Can Garoppolo elevate himself to first-round status?
Can he follow in the footsteps of fellow Eastern Illinois alumnus Tony Romo and become a franchise quarterback?
Already, Garoppolo is fielding such questions even though it's far too early for concrete answers. But that's the other thing about Garoppolo that's impressing folks -- the ease with which he's handling this spike in popularity and the pressure of trying to prove himself.
"You have to have fun with all of it," the quarterback said. "Otherwise, you'll stress yourself out."
Garoppolo admits he has been sleep-deprived lately, in the middle of a two-week whirlwind. He was the MVP of the East-West Shrine Game on Saturday, then bolted for the Senior Bowl the next morning after accepting a last-minute invitation to this stage.
That meant a 4:30 a.m. Sunday wake-up call in St. Petersburg, Fla., a 7 a.m. flight to Pensacola with a two-hour layover in Atlanta plus later an hour drive to Mobile, Ala.
Team meetings that night. Practice the next morning.
"The grind is real," Garoppolo said with a laugh.
Certainly the quarterback's 2013 numbers are attractive. He completed 66 percent of his passes. He had a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 53-to-9. He threw for more than 400 yards five times and averaged 360.7 yards per game.
NFL coaches and front office personnel have grown increasingly fond of Garoppolo's accuracy and laud the passion he shows talking through the game.
"I'm a nerd of the game, really," Garoppolo said. "The mental part, I get a kick out of. Just beating a defense mentally."
Garoppolo's calm has been evident the last 10 days as he quickly got up to speed with the offense Jerry Glanville turned over to him at the East-West Shrine Game, then transitioned seamlessly into the plays and terminology of the Jaguars staff here.
"It's like learning a new language," Garoppolo said. "I learned Spanish last week. And it's French this week."
Added Scelfo: "And with his college offense, he was speaking Italian for four years. That has been pretty cool to see him grasp things here so quickly. ... It clicks. He gets it. So now you don't have to spend all day teaching him when you can go out and do."
But amid all the escalating buzz, the key to retaining focus and making progress, Scelfo said, is an honest and critical self-assessment.
For Garoppolo, that means taking years of experience gained in a shotgun spread offense and complementing it with footwork coming out from under center in three-, five- and seven-step drops.
"I'm still fairly new to those." Garoppolo said. "So it'll be a repetition thing."
Garoppolo's Mobile mantra also might be worth repeating in the weeks ahead.
"I don't just want to fit in here," he said. "I want to stand out by going above and beyond everyone else."
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