The same perseverance that helped make Tom Flacco one of the best quarterbacks in small-college football the last two seasons might get him into the NFL.
Flacco, the younger brother of former Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, made stops at Western Michigan and Rutgers before transferring to Towson University where he was the Colonial Athletic Association offensive player of the Year in 2018.
It’s not the typical route to the NFL, or even to Towson, but it says something about his character.
“I persevered,” Flacco said, “so you can’t question my commitment to football. I have transferred twice. People think that’s crazy. I have redshirted, gray-shirted and made it through all of that. I have sacrificed a lot to play football.
“I had planned on getting a master’s in finances at Rutgers but liked the situation better at Towson,” Flacco, 25, said. “I took it and now I can completely focused on the NFL.”
This is the time of the year for the big dreamers who want to make it into the NFL. The big names in college football get invited to the annual league scouting combine, which was held last week in Indianapolis.
Flacco wasn’t one of those players and he knows he is a long shot to make an NFL roster. Early projections have him going in the late rounds of the annual draft or as a “high priority” free agent.
Flacco doesn’t care. He just wants an opportunity.
That’s what drives him. That’s what makes those two-a-day workouts since January much easier. A typical day has him getting up at 8:30 a.m. followed by breakfast, then a slow stretch warmup followed by a more stringent one that is a prelude to preparing for drills associated with timing in the 40-yard dash, 20-yard shuffle and the “L drill”.
Then it’s time for lunch, then another warmup followed by 90 minutes of weight training. Flacco usually throws to receivers three times a week before he heads home to dinner to study a playbook or go over notes left by his personal trainer or quarterback coach.
And then he wakes up the next morning and the process starts over again.
Flacco needs that type of motivation because he comes from Towson, not a college football factory such as Alabama, Clemson or Ohio State.
Tom Flacco also wasn’t blessed with Joe’s powerful arm or his size (6-foot-5, 220-pound frame). The older Flacco was drafted in the first round by the Ravens out of Delaware in 2008.
Tom is listed by Towson officials at 6-1 and 205 pounds. The NFL has him at 5-11 3/4.
“No one has told me directly where I will go or if I will go in the draft,” Flacco said “Whatever, this all just adds to the chip on my shoulder. I am not surprised. I came from a smaller school and have been overlooked. It is what it is. It does not affect how I prepare. Actually, it just makes me work harder.”
Flacco also is motivated by the successes of other quarterbacks built like him, including Drew Brees and Russell Wilson.
“Look at Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray,” Flacco said. “Those two guys got picked first overall the last two years. What, Baker is only an inch taller than me and Murray is an inch shorter?
“People aren’t even talking about that [size] anymore,” Flacco said. “It’s funny how times have changed for guys who are 6 foot. It’s a good time for me to be coming out because height is no longer a problem.”
It still is. In the case of Murray and Mayfield they were established college stars and NFL teams were willing to tailor their offenses around them. No team is clamoring to build an offense around Flacco.
But the kid won at Towson. In 12 games last season he threw for 2,831 yards and 22 touchdowns with just six interceptions. He also rushed for 324 yards and two touchdowns. Joe Flacco might have gotten the arm, but Tom got the legs with his ability to run around and make plays. He ended up being one of the top quarterbacks in a school that has produced some pretty good signal callers in the past.
Plus, Tom has Joe.
“It is helpful to have him as a resource, someone who has been through the entire process,” Flacco said. “In the upcoming days I will have even more specific questions to talk to him about as far as the overall big picture, staying relaxed and trusting yourself.”
“Joe was always so decisive on the field,” Flacco said. “He always was comfortable in what he thought, didn’t think about it twice and just ran with it. That’s what I have taken from watching him play. Also, he went to Pittsburgh and ended up transferring to Delaware. He always said if you are good enough they will find you.”
Flacco’s Pro Day is March 26. That’s when NFL scouts will travel to Towson and work out him and other teammates. If Flacco can’t make it in the NFL there is always the Canadian League where he has already signed a negotiating agreement with the Saskatchewan Rough Riders.
Flacco wants a shot at the NFL and has spent months working on the league vernacular and improving his five to seven drop back under center, which he didn’t do a lot of at Towson.
“People ask me what I will do next if I don’t make it,” Flacco said, who is working on his Master’s in Informational Technology at Towson. “I don’t know for sure. I really don’t think about that. I am focused on one thing and one thing only, that’s making it in the NFL.
“People might think I am crazy, but I’ve spoken with a lot of successful people and they are said they were driven to one thing, and that was their focus,” he said. “That’s me. I am committed to football.”
NFL key dates
Tuesday: Before 4 p.m., deadline for clubs to designate franchise or transition players.
March 16-18: Clubs are permitted to contact, and enter into contract negotiations with, the certified agents of players who will become unrestricted free agents.
March 29-April 1: Annual league meeting, Palm Beach, Florida.
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April 23-25: NFL draft, Las Vegas.