Eric Ebrons mother, Gina Jackson, will occasionally ask her son if he has a preference of where he plays professionally.
The former North Carolina tight end is a lock for the first round, and he will likely be the first tight end taken in Mays draft. Mock drafts have him going ninth to the Bills, or 12th to the Giants or 17th to the Ravens.
I say, No, ma! I just want to play football. This is what I love to do, Ebron said in a phone interview Friday. And I want people watch me do it. I want people to watch me embarrass other people. Thats my joy. Thats where I get my fun from.
With a combine featureing a position-sizzling 4.60-second 40-yard dash, Ebron can rest assured he will soon be a featured, pass-catching tight end for an NFL team. And even though he doesnt care where he lands, where he played in college was more of a question.
Ebron committed to UNC in 2010 with offers from Alabama, Clemson, Missouri, Tennessee and others. But Butch Davis was fired by North Carolina amid an academic and agent scandal before Ebron could play a down for him.
Ebron considered transferring, but his mother told him to be patient. When North Carolina hired Larry Fedora to bring his spread offense from Southern Mississippi to Chapel Hill, Ebron did some research. He decided to stay after he saw Fedoras tight ends featured prominently in the passing game.
After I thought about it I was like, Hmm, OK. Well I know what to do, Ebron said. So I stayed with Coach Fedora, we had a talk, I introduced myself. I told him the first day, Hi, my name is Eric Ebron, and I have a feeling were going to get along fine.
In Ebrons junior season his second under Fedora he set school records at tight end for receptions (55) and single-season receiving yards (895). His 895-yard mark also stood as the best in the history of the ACC, topping ex-Terp Vernon Davis, who Ebron molds his game after.
Ebrons speed, agility and pass-catching abilities have him atop his class, but his biggest knock is blocking ability. He didnt have to block much in Fedoras spread offense. He put up 24 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press, which was tied for sixth among tight ends.
But in the NFL, blocking tight ends are being phased out and passed over in favor of athletic, basketball-type bodies like Ebrons 6-foot-5, 250-pound frame.
As he views it, NFL tight ends are rarely asked to block, and when they do, theyre (darn) good at it. If theres any knock on Ebron, he said its that hes too aggressive.
Ive talked to NFL head coaches and theyve said, If I had to watch anybody that was blocking at the college level I would watch you because you were the most exciting blocker because you would always get after your block, Ebron recalled. And I would tell them that thats my problem: Im an aggressive blocker. If Im going to put my hands on you, I want to destroy you. But that can also be my downfall, because as Im over-aggressive I may lose you.
Ebron likely would have had more opportunities to improve his blocking abilities in Davis pro-style offense. But he made his name with Fedora.
So when Ebron hears him name called in the first round on May 8, no matter where he goes, he will have his mom and coach to thank.
He coached me like I was his son, Ebron said. Even if I did great he said I did bad. He was hard on me as if I was his son. My experience at Carolina was great. I wouldnt trade it in for the world, and Im glad I didnt give it up or transfer.
Jones: 704-358-5323; Twitter: @jjones9
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