Rodney Gunter was a name most football fans outside the MEAC didn’t know a week ago. The former Delaware State defensive lineman is one of the most talked about players in the Arizona Cardinals rookie minicamp.
But it wouldn’t have happened if he didn’t have an open-minded alley in the scouting process.
Cardinals defensive line coach Brentson Buckner drove down to Haines City, Florida to get a first-hand look at Gunter and came away impressed, with the 6-foot-5, 305 pound former DSU star.
He told AZCardinals.com that he came back very impressed with Gunter.
“I wanted to come back and tell somebody I might have seen one of the best defensive line prospects in this draft,” Buckner said. “I don’t know why he wasn’t on the radar but from a natural ability, he’s got everything you want,” Buckner added.
Despite Buckner’s approval, Gunter still faced scrutiny, due mostly to where he played and not how he played.
“Usually you don’t think much of them, put your late-round grade on them and move on,” Cardinals VP of Player Personnel Terry McDonough said. “This guy was different. He played different than the rest of those guys. He looked like a real NFL player.”
Luckily for Gunter, the Cardinals were impressed enough to select him in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
But the team’s hesitance to take a prospect from a small school prospect shows why small school players in general, and HBCUs players in particular, face an uphill climb when trying to gain scouts attention.
It’s amazing that that attitude is so pervasive when so many NFL players have thrived coming from the FCS and Division II ranks. Look no further than Malcolm Butler, who won the Super Bowl for the Patriots after going undrafted out of D2 West Alabama in 2014.
Hopefully, more coaches like Butler will take the time to examine players like Gunter and not rely so much on where player is coming from.