NFL Draft: Mock if you will, but unknown Joel Blumenthal might just get draft weekend call
Joel Blumenthal wanted to block out every distraction.
A solid plan on the biggest day of his life.
But a couple times when a pass went high and he went just as high to snag it a couple Wednesdays ago, the crowd amassed for OU Pro Day would start buzzing. It was part “Wow,” part “Who?”
“I heard that a little bit,” Blumenthal admitted.
It was the sound of the football world taking notice of him.
Almost two weeks have passed since the most-watched pro day of the year was held in Norman. Kyler Murray was the star of the show, big enough to convince two cable networks to go live with his throwing session. Even though the Oklahoma quarterback didn’t disappoint, he wasn’t the only one who shone.
Blumenthal was a breakout star.
As amazing a story as Murray may be — it’s looking more and more like he’ll be the overall No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft — Blumenthal is authoring his own whopper of a tale. He played for three colleges. He suffered two devastating injuries. And still, in one day, he went from no-name to buzzworthy.
“That was my Super Bowl,” he said of pro day. “That was as big as it was going to get.”
Even though nothing compared to that, Blumenthal has played lots of football over the years.
Raised in the Deer Creek schools on the extreme western side of Edmond, he was a standout quarterback. After graduating high school in 2013, he went to Butler County Community College in Kansas, redshirting a year, then playing in 10 games for one of the best junior-college programs around.
He moved to FCS level Northwestern State in Louisiana in 2015, starting some and backing up some before tearing ligaments in his throwing shoulder midway through his second season there.
That injury affected his throws. Velocity slowed. Strength lagged. So, Blumenthal transferred again, moving to Division II Southwestern Oklahoma State and hoping he was still good enough to compete.
Just a few games into the 2017 season, his first in Weatherford, he broke his pinkie and was done for the year.
Last spring, Blumenthal asked his coaches what they thought about him switching to receiver.
“They wanted me to do that,” he said. “They wanted to get me on the field.”
He ended the season with only five catches for 79 yards. Two of the catches went for touchdowns, but still.
Not exactly earth shattering.
Still, Blumenthal threw himself into training for the NFL Draft. He’d had a dream of being a Division-I quarterback, which he’d done at the FCS level, and he’d also had a dream of one day playing in the NFL. Why not chase it?
He went to McKinney, Texas, in suburban Dallas-Fort Worth to work at the Michael Johnson Performance Center. Two weeks in, he suffered another injury. This time, it was a grade 2 high ankle sprain.
For the better part of two months, he couldn’t run. No conditioning. No route running.
But he could catch. He was catching 1,000 or 1,500 balls a week off a machine before the injury, so he continued that routine. When he got healthy enough to run again, he made sure he caught as many passes as he could.
“I gotta make sure my hands are more than a hundred percent,” he said.
If that’s possible, he showed it on OU’s pro day.
Even though his speed and agility numbers were good — he had the day’s fastest times in all four running drills despite an ankle that still wasn’t fully healed — his catching abilities really turned heads. No drops. No bobbles. No problems whatsoever.
Remember, this is a guy who hasn’t played receiver full-time for a year yet.
Remember, too, this was a make-or-break situation.
“Without a doubt,” Blumenthal admitted. “It was a hundred percent the biggest moment in my career.”
How did he not get overwhelmed by the pressure?
“It’s just something I always wanted to do,” he said of performing for NFL types. “Who doesn’t want to play in front of those guys? I just wanted to embrace the moment, just enjoy it and do what I know I worked so hard to accomplish.”
He wasn’t on the radars of any teams two weeks ago, but that day in Norman, every franchise had representatives there plus who knows how many execs watching on TV. They were watching because of Murray.
Just maybe they noticed Blumenthal.
He hasn’t heard from any clubs yet, but that doesn’t mean he won’t get a call come NFL Draft time. He could get picked. He could get a free-agent deal. So, he continues working out, getting ready for the next step and preparing for rookie mini camp.
Joel Blumenthal plans to impress again.
“It just keeps getting bigger and bigger from here,” he said.
“It’s just another Super Bowl coming up.”
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.