MOBILE—This is a big week for North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz. At the Senior Bowl practices, and then in the game Saturday, the Bismarck, North Dakota-native needs to show NFL scouts that he wasn’t just a by-product of playing low-level competition.
Here are some of his thoughts that he shared in the media scrum upon his arrival in Alabama for one of the biggest weeks of his life.
Q: What would you like to show the NFL this week?
Wentz: I think there’s obviously a lot of doubt coming from the [I-AA] level and I just want to address that right away, prove that I can play at a high level, play at a fast level, compete with these guys and really excel. I have the mental and physical abilities to play at this level and I’m really excited to prove it.
Q: How are you guys (North Dakota State) able to do what you’ve done up there, winning several 1-AA championships?
Wentz: A lot of people kind of compare us to Alabama of [I-AA]. Our conferences are really tough and say we’re like the SEC of the FCS so a lot of comparison based on the winning culture and the tradition that we have. Football is huge in our state. It’s big down in Alabama, but North Dakota State Bison football to North Dakotans and people in the Midwest has become a really big thing and we have quite the following and we would argue we have some of the best fans in the nation.
Q: How big is this to work with Jason Garrett and the Dallas Cowboys staff who are coaching the South team?
Wentz: It’s a tremendous opportunity. I think we’ve seen teams fall in love with players at any point during the draft process and this is just the first step in that process. Obviously, a great opportunity for me to show not just my physical abilities, but my mental side of things that the Cowboys staff can see at a whole other level.
Q: Would you rather be a little more under the radar or do you like being up there with the top quarterbacks in this class?
Wentz: I don’t pay much attention to that. It kind of is what it is because everyone’s going to have their own opinion. All of the media is going to have their own opinion. What really matters is what the scouts think, what the owners think, what the administration within the team thinks. At the end of the day, whatever projections might be out there, it’s irrelevant to me personally. I’m just worried about getting better every day and proving myself every day.
Q: How big were you when you entered high school?
Wentz: I was a freshman in high school at 5’8” and 125 pounds. Then 5’10” and a real skinny kid as a sophomore and then I bloomed into a 6’3” and 170 pound kid as a junior. I had some injury issues so I didn’t play quarterback as a junior so I missed a lot of the big recruiting. In North Dakota, it’s hard to get found in general, let alone missing a junior year. I came in my senior year at 6’5” and 200 pounds and kind of came out of nowhere. I always knew I had the physical and mental abilities to play this position, but physically I finally developed late. I’m so thankful and I would trade the road I took for the world.
Q: Is the goal in this process to be the first quarterback taken?
Wentz: Absolutely. I don’t know any quarterback that doesn’t want to be the top guy in their class. If you don’t think you are or don’t think you have the ability to be, then you’re probably in the wrong sport because we’re competitors playing football here. We all want to be the best at our respective positions and that’s obviously the goal.
Q: Who did you try to emulate as a quarterback?
Wentz: Growing up, I was a Vikings fan just because they were the close team. I always loved watching Brett Favre. I loved his grit, his competitiveness, his gunslinger mentality and I loved the way the guy had fun out there. You’d see him just running around throwing touchdowns and he wasn’t all about himself. He’s sprinting down there giving guys hi-fives and the energy he brought, I loved every minute of it.
Wentz projects as the number-12 pick in Lance Zierlein’s mock draft at NFL.com and at 13 in Dan Kadar’s mock draft at SBNation. But because he competed against weaker competition at North Dakota State, his performance at the Senior Bowl figures to influence his stock more than most.