By the end of this weekend, Drake will likely will have its first NFL Draft pick since Pat Dunsmore was taken in the fourth round in 1983. Eric Saubert, an incredibly gifted tight end who has literally grown into his own shoes at the Iowa school, is making NFL scouts drool. He was an absolute gem of a recruiting job by current Drake head coach Rick Fox and the Bulldogs' staff. Fox was an assistant when Saubert came aboard in 2012.
"We found him through his high school coach (at Hoffman Estates HS in the Chicago area)," Fox told HERO Sports. "His last year at the high school, his coach emailed me in late October. I think Eric's team had won one or two games, the program was struggling at that time but has since really build itself up. So his coach emailed me and said, 'I have a great guy who would be a great fit for Drake, but nobody's paying attention to him because we're rebuilding our program right now'."
So the Drake staff took at a look at the film and realized the kid had some serious upside. Boy … is that an understatement or what, five years later?
The staff realized it wanted Saubert. As Fox recalls, he' was 198 pounds dripping wet and played wide receiver at the time. It is fitting, because he has a wide receiver's ability to fly and shift gears, but the size of an NFL tight end at 6-foot-5, 253 pounds. On March 28 at Iowa State's Pro Day, the chiseled all-around athlete ran a 4.68 in the 40-yard dash, and he was also invited to the NFL Combine and to a high end postseason all-star game. The site NFLDraftScout.com sees him as high as a fifth round selection, while FOX says fourth round. Of the seven Mock Drafts HERO Sports checked this week, only one didn't have Saubert being drafted — and the consensus seems to about the sixth round.
Not bad for a guy who plays in a non-scholarship football league — but then again, Stetson's Donald Payne, San Diego's Jamal Agnew and several others will all be signed within the next week — and they're all Pioneer League non-scholarship players.
Saubert appears to be an example of what is happening in the Pioneer League.
"(Defending champion San Diego coach) Dale Lindsey and I were talking before our game, and you know Dale's coached at the highest levels (the NFL) and been around the best there are in this game," Fox said. "He told me that in the four or five years that he's been in the conference, he's definitely noticed how much the talent level is increasing in the PFL. One thing that has helped is the automatic playoff bid for the conference champion. Plus for the kind of football we're playing, you can also get a great education in this conference. Even if we don't have the scholarships to offer, nobody is going to be playing football all of their life. If you come here, you're setting yourself up for success."
It's true. Saubert may be an exception, but he's an example that if you go to college, keep your nose clean and work your tail off — the opportunity will present itself. It's the common theme of the FCS level, whether its the Missouri Valley Football Conference, or the non-scholarship Pioneer. It is an absolutely loaded year for quality tight ends, but Saubert is still near the top of the group.
So does Fox bring up Saubert when he's talking to a recruit? Um, is water wet?
"It comes up," Fox said. "It's not something we force, but it's something that's easy to talk about right now if you're paying attention. At the East-West Shrine Game, he had a great week of practice in the heart of the recruiting period, so our recruits were seeing it. When recruits asked about him, we were able to say, 'Hey, you know what? He wasn't all that different than you coming out of high school. He had a huge upside and busted his rear end in the classroom and the weight room and field. So that can be your story too at Drake'."
ERIC SAUBERT'S CAREER
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