COLLEGE STATION (AP) – Texas A&M left tackle Luke Joeckel never had to look for motivation to excel at sports.
He had competition, right from the crib, in his twin brother Matt, and it has helped him become perhaps the top prospect in next month’s NFL draft.
Representatives from every NFL team were on campus Friday to watch the group of prospects led by Joeckel. Most teams sent scouts or assistant coaches, but New York Jets coach Rex Ryan and Oakland Raiders coach Dennis Allen made the trek to College Station.
The 6-foot-6, 310-pound Joeckel declared for the draft after a standout season where he anchored a line that protected Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel. Joeckel started all 39 games of his A&M career and won the Outland Trophy this season.
He said he benefited this season from A&M’s move from the Big 12 to the Southeastern Conference.
“Going against the best competition is going to get me ready for the next step,” Joeckel said. “This year I went against probably five guys that could be going in the first round … and I think that definitely improved my game.”
Joeckel credits much of his success to the lifelong rivalry with his brother, who is a quarterback at A&M.
“That’s been the biggest thing for sure, competing with my twin brother every day growing up, and probably fighting multiple times a day every day has helped me get to where I’m at now,” Joeckel said. “We still fight all the time, and I think that makes me a better ball player every day.”
Joeckel met with nine teams at the NFL combine and will meet with the Raiders on campus in the coming days and receive a visit from the Chiefs, who pick first, on March 22. He only performed position drills on Friday after doing all the testing drills at the combine last month.
It was still enough to catch the eye of former A&M linebacker Allen, whose Raiders pick third.
“I think he was impressive on the tape and just watching him out here and getting a chance to visit with him, I think not only is he a good football player, he’s an impressive young man,” Allen said. “I think that’s the thing that when you look at him, that’s the thing that says this guy is going to make it in the National Football League.”
Also taking part in Friday’s drills was defensive end Damontre Moore. He was slotted as a first-round pick as well after a junior season where he led the team with 85 tackles, including 21 for losses and 12 1/2 sacks. But a poor performance at the combine has caused his draft stock to plummet.
The most troubling number in his combine workout were the 12 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press.
“It hit me right afterwards and I was really disappointed and upset,” he said. “I even cried, so I was a little baby. I cried around the corner and came back.”
He said the negativity that grew out of the performance encouraged him to do better on Friday, when he benched the weight 19 times.
“It motivated me because I feel like my whole life I’ve been playing from behind, people saying I can’t do this,” he said. “I feel like that’s when I get the most motivation and do my best work. I want to meet that challenge and prove them wrong.”
Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin believes that Moore is a great player regardless of his testing numbers.
“There’s a lot of people that put up really good numbers that don’t end up playing at all,” Sumlin said. “So I think the key with him is going to be the evaluation off video and how he played. Certainly people wouldn’t regard him the way they do as a projected first-round pick if he hadn’t played so well.
He played with great effort, was extremely productive and had a tremendous year for us last year.”
Another player who drew a lot of attention was receiver Ryan Swope. The former running back turned heads when he tied for the second-fastest 40-yard dash time at the combine with a 4.34.
Sumlin said several scouts commented on Swope’s size because they expected him to be smaller. Swope is 6-foot and 205 pounds. Swope, who is projected to be a third-round pick, was second on the team last season with 72 receptions for 913 yards and eight touchdowns.
“You can see on tape his toughness and love of the game, but really just getting to see him in person and see his athleticism was impressive,” Allen said.
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