We Don’t Throw This Around Lightly: A Pro Team Will Suffer No Regrets
BY JAY GREENBERG
As close to the vest as Chad Kanoff delivered the ball, talent evaluators from 13 teams left Princeton Friday afternoon without dropping a hint as to his prospects of playing in the NFL, but the whistle of tight spirals piercing the silence of the mesmerized spectators inside the all-weather bubble spoke volumes.
If numbers such as 31-for-35 for 421 yards at Harvard hadn’t yet been convincing, seeing Kanoff almost perfectly delivering the ball everywhere on the field should have you believing that just one team would find one spot over seven rounds to make Kanoff a pro.
He threw 53 passes of every type the scouts could possibly want to see—short, intermediate, long, out and in. All but four were chest or neck high into the hands of recent Tigers James Frusciante and Nick Peabody or Wendel O’Brien, a California workout buddy of Kanoff’s and a draft hopeful out of Division III Cal-Lutheran. The only Kanoff misses were three bare overthrows of balls 40-50 yards in the air, and another of similar distance that hit a padded overhanging light fixture before it could arch into Frusciante’s hands one more time.
No circus catches were required under this big top. Kanoff’s accuracy on bombs, swings, slants, dumps and look-ins either from three-step drops, five-step drops, or on the run–was jaw dropping.
“And this was what every practice was like,” beamed Coach Bob Surace. “He killed it.”
“If you just watched the workout and film of him (without knowing what league he played in), there is not a guy you would say should go higher than Chad.
“I told these [scouts]. ‘You know me, I’m not a bull bleeper.’ I told you about Seth DeValve and he is now a top-ten tight end in the NFL.
“[Kanoff] has it all. Leadership. Huddle presence. Played hurt all year and still delivered huge numbers.
“He won’t go first. He may not go in the third round. But when the Patriots drafted Tom Brady (in the sixth round) he told (Bill) Belichick, ‘That’s the best decision you ever made.’ Chad will never say that, but I will. This would be the best decision any team ever made.
“You know your own guys. You just know.”
We will all know on April 26, 27 or 28 how many teams thought there was a quarterback better than one who threw for 7,657 yards over three years, with 3,553 of them coming last season. But yesterday’s performance made it almost impossible to believe no one will risk a pick on a pro-sized quarterback (6-4), with this kind of accuracy and plenty of velocity to go with it.
Whoa! Kanoff’s time in the 20 was .15 seconds slower than the average quarterback invited to the combine! Aha! The padded fixture he hit 40 feet up just before Frusciante was running under it in perfect stride 40 yards downfield didn’t smash! Drop this Princeton kid two rounds! Arm must not be strong enough!
Let the record show Kanoff measured a bigger hand and a longer arm than the average QB at the combine. Gotta move him up and around! And as for height and length of the jumps – how would Billy Kilmer and Sonny Jurgensen have done on these? – and the times in the dashes, ultimately what will these numbers mean that the Giants, Seahawks, Steelers, Browns, Cardinals, Bills, Colts, Packers, Eagles, Broncos, Patriots, Raiders and 49ers brought home Friday from Princeton?
After the workout, a scout from San Francisco pulled Kanoff aside for about 10 minutes worth of questions. The Cardinals have another session planned with him later in the week. But what either means towards where Kanoff winds up is utter guesswork.
The Lions, who drafted Caraun Reid in the fifth round in 2014, did not come to Princeton’s Pro Day that year. Likewise the Chiefs were a no-show in 2013 until Mike Catapano’s measurable broke Ivy League stereotypes. Then KC came, worked him out privately, and took him in round seven.
The team that had far and away the most questions for Surace about DeValve was not the Browns, who seemingly out of the blue selected the receiver in the fourth round.
Kanoff didn’t rate an invite to last week’s combine in Indianapolis, isn’t making many sleeper lists on the internet. Penn receiver Justin Watson and Harvard guard Larry Allen seem to be the Ivy’s of most interest, for whatever that is worth, which is practically nothing.
Pro Day workouts count, though, or the teams wouldn’t show up for them. Four years ago, Roman Wilson had a disappointing day, probably keeping him from a look-see in camp, but he was 5-10, not what the pros are looking for. Kanoff is tall and oh so cool, by not displaying a single jitter. “Not really,” he said. “It was fun. You prepare as best you can and the chips will fall.”
Better that the chips, or the light fixture–fall, than the football. Kanoff didn’t bounce a single one short and not a one dawdled in the air.
Where did the guns on Ryan Leaf and Akili Smith get them? Russell Wilson is five inches smaller than Kanoff. Location, location, location.
“I’ll say this, the ball is coming out a touch stronger,” said Surace. High intensity workouts since December at the Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, California have added nine pounds, given Kanoff more definition in his upper body, strengthened his legs, core and put more, reassuring, mustard on the ball. “I feel like I am the best I’ve ever been,” he said.
Whatever their needs and inclinations, 13 NFL teams or 18 more that get the word about the demonstration on Friday will not see a quarterback throw any better before they make up their final draft boards.
Tackle Mitchell Sweigart, touted by Surace as a strong NFL prospect, has decided not to pursue professional football because of a recurrence of a medical condition that plagued him on and off during his All-American career at Princeton. “I’m really happy with my decision,” said Sweigart, who was among multiple current and recent Tigers who showed up to cheer Kanoff on Friday.
Joining Kanoff in workouts was Doran Williams ’17, an All-Ivy safety who a year ago got an invite to spring rookie camps of the Eagles and Redskins and chose Philadelphia, which then did not invite him to training camp. “I was disappointed but still got a chance to see what it takes on the NFL level,” he said. ‘That’s why I came back and (resumed) training.”
Williams, one of the most dynamic defenders in program history, has a job with Bacardi Limited, the distiller, in Dallas, but is taking what is realistically his last shot at pro football. “If I get any interest I will run with that,” he said. “If not, it’s probably time to hang them up.
“At some point you have to face reality. There are other things to do in life. But I can’t picture myself yet without football. It is still a dream.”