Boston College tackle Anthony Castonzo will hear his name called in the first round of this month’s NFL draft. Throughout the week, he’ll share his insight with NESN.com about the pre-draft process, from hiring an agent to the work he’s done behind the scenes to prepare himself for life in the NFL. The idea is to give the readers an inside look at a player’s life in the months before the draft.
No one needed to remind Anthony Castonzo about the grind he went through at the Senior Bowl, but when he returned to IMG Academy in Florida, his masseuse had a startling message for him.
“The intensity is probably a higher intensity than any week of practice or game that I’ve ever experienced,” Castonzo said. “I’ll give you an example. When I came back to my training facility in Florida afterward, I got a massage from a masseuse who was working on me. She massages car accident victims, and she said my body felt worse than a car accident victim after I came back from the Senior Bowl. That just goes to show you how much your body takes a beating that week.”
In reality, Castonzo knew it was well worth the pain.
Castonzo said the Senior Bowl was a bigger deal during his pre-draft preparation than the combine because it set the pace for his entire offseason. After Boston College’s bowl game Jan. 9, Castonzo packed his things and went straight to IMG to cram in two weeks of preparation for the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.
He was aware of his status as a potential first-round pick, but he had to prove his worth in front of a mass of coaches and scouts during a week of practice sessions that led up to the most intense all-star game on the college football calendar. As always, there are a host of first-round-worthy tackles on the draft board, but the depth chart for this year’s crop was very murky in January. The tackles who had the best showing at the Senior Bowl would do themselves a great service in terms of creating some necessary pre-draft momentum.
“I had heard that I had the opportunity to be a first-round pick, and I really needed to kind of show out at the Senior Bowl and at the combine to solidify myself in that position,” Castonzo said. “That’s basically what I set out to do.”
The Senior Bowl is a week’s worth of practices and workouts in front of scouts and coaches who want to see the players react in certain situations. They’re put in pro-style formations that will mimic the positions they could play in the NFL. For Castonzo, it was important to show his value as a left tackle — his natural position — but teams also wanted to know he could handle the right side, too.
Although the on-field performance is significant due to the level of competition at the Senior Bowl, which invites the draft’s highest-ranking prospects, the coaches and scouts also want to see the players’ mental capabilities and the intangibles that seldom show up on game film.
“A lot of it that [coaches and scouts] were talking to me about was seeing your attitude, seeing the competitive nature that you have, seeing how you can stack up against those [elite prospects],” Castonzo said. “I’m telling you, a lot of it was just that attitude. They wanted to see you compete. That was the biggest thing.”
Castonzo wasn’t completely pleased with his performance in Alabama, but he has since found out the coaches and scouts felt differently. Since then, they’ve all talked to him about his film from the Senior Bowl, and it sounds like the reviews have been overwhelmingly positive.
Plus, Castonzo is widely considered to be one of the three best tackles in the draft along with USC’s Tyron Smith and Wisconsin’s Gabe Carimi. And since his showing at the Senior Bowl, it has seemed like a near certainty that Castonzo would be taken in the top 20 — possibly as high as No. 9 to Dallas or No. 13 to Detroit.
He learned plenty about himself in Alabama, and he accomplished two very lofty goals at the Senior Bowl. He set the pace for his pre-draft campaign, and he solidified himself as a first-rounder. With that and the knowledge he gained on the field, Castonzo understood why the Senior Bowl is the most important week of the pre-draft process.
“I thought that I competed as well as I could have, but I would have liked to win every rep, which I’m beginning to learn that nobody wins every rep at the NFL level,” Castonzo said. “That’s what coaches have been telling me. The feedback that I got from scouts and coaches was that I did very well just competing, and I really held my own and did a good job.”
Check back Wednesday to learn more about Castonzo’s experience at the draft combine, which included a wild line of questioning from one team.
Monday: Castonzo took care of business early to give himself the opportunity to focus solely on football as a senior at BC.