Much of the talk during the week of practices at the 2013 Senior Bowl revolved around the way Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick impressed during his week at the annual college all-star game in 2011 and just two years later will start in Super XLVII. He's not the only Senior Bowl success story, though, as he'll be facing off against Joe Flacco, the former-Delaware quarterback who had a similar rise to prominence with the Senior Bowl.
After transferring from Pittsburgh to Delaware, Flacco took over at the helm of the Blue Hens offense in 2006 and quickly became a dominant force in the FCS. In 2007, he led Delaware to the FCS Championship, and although it lost to Appalachian State in the championship game, 49-21, Flacco left Delaware with 20 school records.
|2006||Delaware Blue Hens||11||264||417||63.3||2783||18||10|
|2007||Delaware Blue Hens||15||331||521||63.5||4263||23||5|
Despite his impressive career that earned him a trip to the 2008 Senior Bowl, Flacco was considered by many to be a late-round pick as he would be fighting history that said FCS quarterbacks are not worth an early look. It had been 13 years since Steve McNair was drafted in the first round out of Alcorn State and Flacco's transfer from Pittsburgh didn't have teams convinced he was the second-coming of McNair.
However, he quickly impressed scouts and Tony Pauline of TFY Draft told Sports Illustrated that he was the biggest riser of the week at practices, showing that he was more than talented enough to make NFL throws:
"Flacco is the most physically gifted passer at the Senior Bowl and he showed why today. He effortlessly tossed the deep passes and put speed on the outs, two throws he must complete at the next level."
When game-time came, though, Flacco struggled and completed just 2-of-7 passes for 22 yards and an interception against the South defense, not all the unlike the 2011 Senior Bowl performance of Kaepernick, who completed 4-of-9 passes for 53 yards and an interception.
The poor performance didn't shake teams from appreciating Flacco's solid week of practice, as Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator, Mike Shula, quarterbacks coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars at the time, told Sports Illustrated that the game didn't hurt Flacco at all:
In the Senior Bowl in January, Flacco completed just 2 of 7 for 22 yards and an interception - but scouts appreciated that he remained poised. "One of the best lessons I was taught when I started coaching was, don't ever ding a guy at the Senior Bowl," says Jaguars quarterbacks coach Mike Shula. "He can only help himself for coming."
At the combine in February, Flacco put the Senior Bowl behind him. His tight spirals on deep balls and accuracy on sideline routes confirmed that he had the strongest arm in the draft, and he showed surprising mobility as well, finishing second among passers in the 20-yard shuttle and blazing through the three-cone drill faster than any other QB in the last three years. "Mechanically he's very smooth," says Shula. "He's ahead of a lot of the quarterbacks who are coming out."
Three months after the Senior Bowl, Flacco was selected with pick No. 18 by the Baltimore Ravens, for whom he started in Week 1 of the 2008 season. Five seasons later, Flacco's NFL journey will have it's highest point yet when he plays in Super Bowl XLVII, 142 miles from where his journey began in Mobile, Ala.