For David Sills at combine, the big test for his NFL dream begins Saturday
INDIANAPOLIS – The irony wasn't lost on David Sills.
Sills, who grew up in Bear, was standing at a podium at the NFL scouting combine on Friday afternoon, with only about a handful or so media members around him asking about his transition from quarterback to wide receiver.
About four podiums over stood Oklahoma's Kyler Murray with a huge crowd around him, asking about his transition from first-round baseball draft pick last year to likely top-10 NFL draft pick this year.
Once upon a time, that crowd was supposed to be around Sills.
As a seventh-grader at Red Lion Christian Academy, Sills was offered a scholarship to Southern Cal as a quarterback and became a national phenomenon. But now, Sills will enter the NFL as a wide receiver after spending his last two seasons (along with his freshman year) at West Virginia, and he couldn't be happier.
Sills is expected to be selected somewhere in the middle rounds of the NFL draft held April 25-27.
"A lot of people ask me if I would do things differently, and I don’t think I would do anything differently," Sills said. "I think everything that I’ve gone through, to this point, has put me in the position and prepared me for the position that I’m in now ... going from being the next starting quarterback at USC, to being at a junior college not having any offers and thinking about walking on somewhere.
"Two opposite sides of the spectrum."
But even as a quarterback prodigy, Sills' goal was to always play in the NFL. And he's determined to prove that he can accomplish that goal as a wide receiver.
To that end, Sills has worked diligently preparing for the combine. He knows he has to run a fast 40-yard dash time on Saturday, probably in the 4.5 range. And he spent the past two months at the EXOS training facility in Carlsbad, California, working on that.
UPDATE: Sills ran a 4.57 on Saturday afternoon.
He also knows that he has to impress NFL executives in his knowledge of the position, at which he is a relative newcomer. Sills switched permanently to wide receiver as a junior at West Virginia. That followed a sophomore year at El Camino Junior College, where Sills tried one last time to make it as a quarterback after being low on the depth chart at QB as a freshman at WVU.
Sills said he has talked to several teams at the combine, including the Eagles, about that entire process.
"I think people saw my film and saw that I can get past people," he said. "But people still question my vertical threat ability. So that’s one thing I’m hoping to prove this weekend. But I think just having the interviews and understanding what it means to be a receiver, a lot of people question the physicality part of it.
"They definitely ask about the knowledge and want to know, really, not only about the X's and O's part, but also, if I’m going to get a press corner, how am I going to beat this guy if I’m running a slant. They want to know if I know that. A lot of people are shocked about how I’ll explain that because they think I’ll go into a quarterback term, and not talk as much about technique."
West Virginia quarterback Will Grier, who's also at the NFL combine, has no such concerns. After all, Sills led the nation in touchdown receptions over the last two seasons with 33. As a junior, Sills was a semifinalist for the Fred Biletnikoff Award given to the nation's top receiver.
"First off, he’s a great athlete," Grier said. "But the way he transitioned from playing quarterback to playing receiver was built off hard work. From the day he stepped back in Morgantown, we threw almost every day in the offseason, just preparing, doing everything he could to catch up, work his technique, and it showed.
"He doesn’t have bad habits. When he started playing receiver, he was learning those techniques. That’s all he knew. So he was learning the right techniques right from the beginning, and he built off that."
Sills hopes to keep building. He just knows that it won't be at quarterback anymore. So it didn't bother him to see the crowd around Murray, knowing that nine years ago, as a seventh-grader, that was supposed to be him.
"I wouldn’t say it’s strange," Sills said. "The goal was to play on Sundays – and figuring out what’s going to be the best way to have the longest career. Obviously, quarterback was what I wanted to do. That was my dream. … Things didn’t work out. That happens with football. That happens all the time. Football teaches you a lot of life lessons. It taught me adversity."
And Sills is proving that he has overcome that adversity.
Contact Martin Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.