February 22, 2013

Former Arlington and A&M star Luke Joeckel could be a first

Luke Joeckel might be the top pick in the NFL Draft and the first from Arlington.

Luke Joeckel could be the city of Arlington’s first No. 1 overall pick. He could be Texas A&M’s first No. 1 overall pick. The offensive tackle could be the talented Joeckel family’s first No. 1 overall pick.

“It’s just crazy to think about,” Joeckel said. “Starting football in the second grade, you don’t really think about that kind of stuff. Football has been huge for me my entire life. I love the game. Just getting to this, this has been a dream come true. Just coming to play in the NFL, being in this situation is just … I can’t even imagine it.”

The NFL Scouting Combine began its annual weeklong run Wednesday as team executives, coaches and scouts evaluate the talent available for the April 25-27 draft.

Joeckel is one of the biggest prospects of the 333 invited to the combine and not just because he measured 6-foot-6 and weighed 306 pounds, four pounds lighter than he played at last season. He is at the top of the draft board and, in a weak quarterback draft, a possibility for the Kansas City Chiefs with the No.1 choice.

“I did have a chance to look at him,” new Chiefs coach Andy Reid said Thursday afternoon. “He’s a pretty good football player. I heard he was a good football player. You put on the film, and he is a good football player. I haven’t had an opportunity to meet him, and I look forward to having that opportunity.”

A quarterback has gone No. 1 overall 20 times since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. Only two offensive tackles have had that honor in the past 43 years with the Rams having made Orlando Pace the top choice in 1997, and the Miami Dolphins taking Jake Long in 2008.

West Virginia’s Geno Smith is the top-rated quarterback this year, but Joeckel, Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, Alabama guard Chance Warmack, Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher and Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner are among the players rated ahead of Smith.

So it is a good year to be Joeckel, an Arlington High School graduate.

“He’s very, very good at what he does,” Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak said. “I wasn’t sure if he would come out or not. I spoke to him a little bit [Wednesday] and got a chance to meet him. He’s going to be a very, very good football player. He’s a guy that is going to be able to come right into the NFL and play immediately. You watch him on tape, and you watch him on TV, and he’s a special guy.

“I know he went against a lot of good defensive ends in college, and you see he is up to the challenge.”

Joeckel, 21, started all 37 games at left tackle in his three seasons in College Station. He won the Outland Trophy in 2012 as the nation’s top blocker.

Now, he could be No. 1.

“He’s a big-time prospect,” said Texans coach Gary Kubiak, a former quarterback at A&M. “He’s a slam dunk at left tackle. He’s the kind of guy everybody’s looking for to play that position — athletic, smart, a quick learner.”

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