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Texas A&M’s Joeckel works himself toward top of NFL Draft

  • Kansas City Star
  • Published Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, at 6:47 p.m.

— Playing football as a youngster, Luke Joeckel was an offensive lineman trapped in a quarterback’s body. He was perhaps the only football player ever who liked throwing blocks more than passes.

In high school, Joeckel’s body began to fill out, allowing him to play the position he truly wanted.

“I love offensive line,” Joeckel, the Texas A&M offensive tackle, said Thursday at the NFL scouting combine. “Growing up, I thought I was too athletic for the position. I was a quarterback in junior high.

“I ended up on the offensive line just because I was the biggest guy on the team. Offensive line is what I was born to play. I love the position and the physical aspect of it. You finish every single play with a one-on-one block. There aren’t many positions on the field like that.”

Joeckel at Texas A&M played tackle well enough that he’s considered the best available at his position in this year’s NFL Draft. He’s also one of the top players at any position and could be of interest to the Chiefs with the top pick in the draft.

Their left tackle, Branden Albert, is a potential free agent. Chiefs coach Andy Reid was non-committal about their interest in re-signing Albert.

If Albert signs with another team and the Chiefs don’t replace him in free agency, Joeckel could easily wind up as the number one pick in the draft and play in Kansas City.

“It’s crazy to think about,” Joeckel said. “Starting football in the second grade, you really don’t think about that stuff.

“It would be a cool place to go. I’ve been to Kansas City once before and I loved the barbecue.”

Reid said his homework on Joeckel had only begun.

“I’d heard he was a good football player,” Reid said. “I put on the film and he was a good football player.”

Joeckel’s twin brother Matt is a backup quarterback at Texas A&M. Matt Joeckel will be a junior next season. The two are in the same year in school but Matt Joeckel redshirted as a freshman and Luke declared for the draft after his junior season.

For awhile, they were dueling quarterbacks. Then Luke started his growth spurt, leaving his brother and the quarterback position behind.

“I grew up probably fighting multiple times a day with my twin brother,” Luke said. “When we were little, we were closer in size, only about five or 10 pounds apart. Now, we’re about 70 or 80 pounds, so he doesn’t mess with me much anymore.”

Luke blocked for Matt in high school in Arlington, Texas. Luke recalled a play in which he knocked down the player he was blocking, but sent him flying into Matt, resulting in a sack.

“I got up and instead of him yelling at me, I was yelling at him,” Joeckel said. “He didn’t chew me out for giving up a sack. I chewed him out once for me giving up a sack.”

That’s the type of player the Chiefs would be getting if they drafted Joeckel. He blocked as a sophomore at Texas A&M for Ryan Tannehill, who was drafted in the first round last year by Miami.

Last season his quarterback was Johnny Manziel, the Heisman Trophy winner. Joeckel said he believed he improved while blocking for Manziel, whose scrambling style allowed him to extend many passing plays.

“Definitely it made me better,” Joeckel said. “You see how he extends plays and you’ve got to learn quickly how to hold your block longer. That definitely made me a better pass blocker. It made me more conditioned, which I think is huge.”

Another of the draft’s top tackles is Eric Fisher of Central Michigan. He impressed scouts with a strong showing at last month’s Senior Bowl, where he got a chance to play against top competition.

“My goal here is to prove to everybody that I am the number one tackle in the nation,” Fisher said.

Like Joeckel, he is a late bloomer. Fisher weighed only about 235 pounds coming out of high school, so the bigger colleges weren’t interested.

“The only Big Ten schools I talked to were Michigan State and Purdue and neither of them really wanted anything to do with me,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where you start. It’s where you end up. That’s a big thing I take to heart.

“I think I have a lot of room to improve. I definitely don’t think I’ve played my best football. I still have a lot to grow into my body. Physically, I feel a lot better because I came in and put on over 70 pounds (since going to college). It took a while into develop into that. But I’m finally starting to feel good and getting used to a solid 300, 310 pounds.”

Reid, a former offensive-line coach, said he wasn’t adverse to playing a rookie at left tackle if that’s what it came to for the Chiefs.

“I’m going to play the best players,” Reid said. “If that’s who it is, I would tell you yes. I’ve got to go through and evaluate those guys and see if any of them are worthy of that spot.

“Can you do that? Yeah, you can do that. You see it throughout the league. Guys do it.”

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