Quantcast

Football / Sports

Wisconsin's Gordon takes his chances with school, not the NFL

INDIANAPOLIS -- What very well might have been the first running back selected in the National Football League in May is attending class and preparing for spring ball at the University of Wisconsin.

Melvin Gordon tantalized the NFL scouting fraternity in his 29-game, seven-start career for the Badgers.

The respect for the Kenosha Bradford (Wis.) High School product runs deep.

"He's so fluid and easy and graceful," one NFL personnel director said at the scouting combine. "He's (expletive) really good. He's a first-rounder."

That scout said Gordon would have been the best back in the draft had he not decided to remain in school.

The scouting director for another team went a step further, saying Gordon was head and shoulders above a dreary corps of running backs that already includes 20 underclassmen.

An AFC scout called Gordon "the real deal," and both he and an NFC personnel man said they could have projected him as the first back off the board.

An NFL running backs coach studied tape of the leading backs and concluded Gordon was No. 1.

Gordon, listed at 6 foot 1 and 207 pounds, was the only Badger to seek input and a grade from the NFL draft advisory committee. On Dec. 27, the redshirt sophomore with two seasons of eligibility remaining put pro football on hold for at least another year.

Acknowledging pressure from his mother to declare, Gordon cited team goals, a shot at the Heisman Trophy and his need for improvement as a receiver and blocker for returning.

"It is tough, knowing I could go in the draft and probably make a little money to help them (family members) out," Gordon said of his decision. "That kind of bothers you, and you think about that a lot."

This way, Gordon has another year to progress toward a degree while at the same time trying to join Alan Ameche (1954), another Kenosha native, and Ron Dayne (1999) as UW's third Heisman winner.

"It is one thing to just come and go," Gordon said. "But you want to leave a legacy."

Bill Polian, the retired general manager of the Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts, estimated that he has been asked to advise 200 players and their families through the years on their stay-or-go decision. He offered opinions to several this year.

"I will say this," Polian said Sunday. "The hardest call is for a running back."

That's because the shelf life for a running back is five, six, maybe seven seasons. The physical pounding that ball carriers absorb takes its toll.

Polian has watched Gordon play on television but has never met him and knows nothing of his personal situation.

"If your family can get beyond the injury risk then the non-financial concerns carry weight," Polian said. "If you have a chance to be a Heisman Trophy winner, that's something that stays with you forever, like your degree.

"So it (Heisman) is worth pursuing if it's legitimate. In his case, it is."

Agents and others in what Polian labels "the legal community" see dollar signs on players. Some, however, only become involved after the player or family contacts them first.

Salaries for first-round draft choices were reduced dramatically in the 2011 collective bargaining agreement. Players can strike it rich in their second contract, but it takes three or four good seasons to get there.

But if an underclassman fails due to injury, immaturity, poor performance or other factors, his outlook can be bleak.

"You have no degree," Polian said. "No capacity to go back to your school except as a paying student. No job. No future."

One scout for a team in need of a running back disagreed with Gordon's decision.

"I hope that kid doesn't get hurt," he said. "He made a mistake by staying in. I don't know who was giving him advice or what they did to keep him in school, but that was a bad decision."

Added another personnel man: "If you're a back and you're a good player, I think you have to come out. You're not going to get any better."

UW coach Gary Andersen encouraged Gordon to seek feedback from the NFL board. He also counseled Gordon that it would be best for him to remain in college.

"I don't know (Andersen) well but everything I've heard is solid," Polian said. "If Barry (Alvarez) picked him, then I know he's solid."

According to Polian, only a few collegiate head coaches that he has known didn't care about their players.

A record total of 98 underclassmen, 25 more than the previous high set in 2013, were approved by the league for the May 8-10 draft. It has created a glut of talent that will leave many disappointed.

"We've got a whole round here, a fourth round here, filled with juniors who came out too early," Polian said. "Why should they be coming out? It doesn't make sense.

"The odds are against them. They may have the talent to play but do they have the capacity to play? They're not ready."

Carrying the ball just 62 times behind Montee Ball in 2012, Gordon led the nation in yards per carry at 10.0.

Last season, Gordon rushed 181 times for 1,466 yards (8.1 avg.) and 12 touchdowns in a job-sharing arrangement with senior James White.

The glaring hole in Gordon's resume is the fact he has merely three receptions in his career.

What's done is done. Barring injury, Gordon probably will be at the combine a year from now trying to impress those same scouts who sounded as if they couldn't be any more impressed.

(c)2014 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Visit the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel at www.jsonline.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services


Comments

blog comments powered by Disqus