Big, athletic NCCU DT John Drew waits to dip toe into NFL waters

Apr. 18, 2013 @ 10:30 PM

Something as small as John Drew’s big toe almost stepped on his opportunity for a shot at the NFL.

“You never know how a toe could make a 330-pound guy not be able to play for the rest of the season,” Drew said. “You never really know when it’s your last play.”

Drew’s toe let him down when he hurt it in the first quarter against eventual MEAC champion Bethune-Cookman late in the season.

The teams were tied for the MEAC lead at the time, but the loss dropped the Eagles to second. Without Drew anchoring the middle of the defensive line and drawing the double-team blocking that freed up his linemates, NCCU finished the MEAC season tied for third.

Since the injury, Drew has concerned himself with two dates — this past Monday and April 27.

Drew’s doctor told him that he could start running hard again on that big toe on Monday, and April 27 is the third day of the NFL draft — featuring rounds 4 through 7 — when he has the best chance of being selected.

Drew was the main attraction for the 12 NFL teams that sent representatives to NCCU’s pro day workouts in March.

“Eleven of them sat down and interviewed John one-on-one,” said Chris Turnage, Drew’s Arkansas-based agent.

One team that’s interested in Drew (6-foot-2, 333) didn’t send a representative to NCCU’s pro day, hoping to keep secret a potential steal, Turnage said.

It’s hard to hide Drew, though, because he’s big and he’s good, Turnage said.

“There’s certainly a lot of interest in him,” Turnage said. “The NFL certainly knew about him.”

“He’s definitely a guy that they ask a lot of questions about,” Frazier said. “They knew about him coming out of high school.”

“It helps that he started out at Duke, that he was at a bigger program,” Turnage said.

Drew was a heralded recruit out of Columbus, Ga., and as a true freshman in 2009 appeared in all 12 Duke games, starting one of them.

But Drew and two freshmen teammates, all from Georgia, were arrested for their involvement in the firing of a gun on campus. Duke coach David Cutcliffe kicked them off the team.

Drew, Kyle Griswould and Brandon Putnam each pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm on educational property and carrying a concealed weapon. Each had his 45-day sentence suspended in favor of 12 months of supervised probation, 140 hours of community service, a $500 fine and court costs.

NCCU gave Drew a fresh start, and he became one of the most dominant defensive linemen in the MEAC.

Drew’s toe kept him from doing any running for the NFL scouts, but he bench pressed 225 pounds 21 times. He’s normally in the 30-rep range, but he’s still trying to recover from the injury, Turnage said.

When Drew is in top shape, he’s a freakish athlete — big and fast, Turnage said.

“I’ve seen John dunk a basketball,” Turnage said.

Georgia-based physical therapist Lance Kelly said he’s trained plenty of professional athletes and believes that Drew, by comparison, can deliver the goods in the NFL.

“He has the complete physical package to do it,” Kelly said. “I have to ride his butt to work hard.”

At NCCU, Drew was able to have his way on the line of scrimmage because of pure, natural ability, Kelly said.

“In the pros, guess what? They all have pure, natural ability,” Kelly said.

No two ways about it, Drew really is some athlete, Kelly said.

“I’ve timed him at a 4.79, and that’s digitally timing,” Kelly said about how fast Drew covered 40 yards.

Kelly said he’s seen Drew bench 225 pounds 32 times.

“He’s a freak of an athlete to be the size that he is. He can almost do a complete split,” Kelly said. “I’ve seen him dunk a basketball — 360.”

Frazier said he wishes that Drew’s toe hadn’t kept him from showing more of how he can impact a football game.

“The one thing about John is his athleticism,” Frazier said. “For him to be a big man, he’s very, very athletic, and that’s one of the things that I think is attractive. There’s always been a saying about a dancing bear — you get a big guy who can move his feet.

“He maybe can dunk a basketball.”

Drew certainly threw down blockers in college, and now he wants to prove that he can pressure the pocket on the next level.

“Just got to make the most of the opportunity,” Drew said.