As soon as super agent Leigh Steinberg picks up the phone, he starts to gush about his newest quarterback prospect.
Not only does Steinberg say “he will be an NFL starter one day,” but he also calls him “a future franchise quarterback.”
Steinberg concludes with this caveat: “I know a little about starting quarterbacks.”
Certainly with a history of quarterback clients such as Hall of Famers Troy Aikman, Warren Moon and Steve Young, the latter is a fact.
But this “he” Steinberg is touting is SMU’s Garrett Gilbert, a former Texas washout, who a month ago wasn’t even considered a draftable quarterback.
That was before a sterling performance during his Pro Day at SMU that has caused Gilbert’s draft stock to skyrocket.
Gilbert, fresh off a visit with the Carolina Panthers on Wednesday, will be at the Cowboys’ Valley Ranch headquarters Thursday for the team’s annual Dallas Day workouts for draft prospects who went to high school or played in college in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
He is among four quarterbacks, joining TCU’s Casey Pachall, North Texas’ Derek Thompson and Missouri’s James Franklin, who will attend.
Other known locals invited are Texas receiver Mike Davis, Tarleton State cornerback Dashaun Phillips, Kansas running back James Sims, Missouri safety Matt White, Baylor guard Cyril Richardson, Miami defensive back Kacy Rodgers II, North Texas linebacker Zachary Orr, Nebraska safety Ciante Evans and SMU cornerback Chris Parks.
Gilbert is the most intriguing of the bunch because of his disappointing history at Texas and his status as a late draft riser.
“I think he is a franchise quarterback,” Steinberg said. “I trust [SMU coach] June Jones. I have relied on him on all the other quarterbacks over the years. He thinks he’s as good as any quarterback in the draft. Wherever he is drafted, I think he will be a starter.”
Since SMU’s Pro Day on March 28, the 6-foot-4 Gilbert had a visit with Tampa Bay in addition to Wednesday’s visit with the Panthers. He has worked out for Carolina and Atlanta and has a visit lined up with St. Louis outside of the Dallas Day workout. Steinberg expects more to come.
Gilbert lived through the whirlwind of hype and expectations during a three-year stint at Texas before transferring to SMU for a fresh start.
“I try not to read too much into that,” Gilbert said. “I try to do the best I can and get prepared the best I can. I let my friends tell me what they see and what they read.”
Gilbert blamed his problems at Texas on playing inconsistently and making mistakes that young quarterbacks make. He said he also tried to force the issue that led to more mistakes.
Gilbert, who followed Vince Young and Colt McCoy as the starter at Texas, threw 10 touchdown passes but was intercepted 17 times in 12 games as a sophomore starter. He was injured two games into his junior season and then transferred.
“I loved Texas, but it didn’t work out,” Gilbert said.
“That’s part of the game on the college level. I thought I needed a fresh start. I’m thankful to coach Jones and the SMU team for welcoming me.”
Despite the disappointments at Texas, Gilbert never gave up on his dream of playing in the NFL.
He chose SMU because of Jones’ history of developing NFL quarterbacks.
At SMU, he passed for 2,932 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2012 before exploding for 3,528 yards and 21 touchdowns during a 2013 season that was cut short by a knee injury.
“He had three different coordinators at Texas,” Steinberg said. “Having a Johnny Manziel or Jameis Winston is a freakish occurrence. It takes a young quarterback time to develop. He is greatly developed from where he was at Texas. It’s all coming for him. People are actually taking a serious look now. This, to me, is one of those things that are late in happening.”
Gilbert is excited about the possibilities, but is leaving the sales job to Steinberg and his experience.
“This whole process has been my dream,” Gilbert said. “I never took my eyes off it.”