LSU conducted two pro days this spring.
You know about one of them. Deion Jones, Jalen Mills and a handful of other Tigers participated in front of family, friends, reporters and scouts. They ran the 40-yard dash, shuffled through cone drills and pumped 225 pounds on the bench press.
LSU’s second pro day wasn’t so glamorous.
The walls of the indoor facility were absent of family and friends. Media members weren’t scattered about the weight room.
Just a few scouts watched one player: Dillon Gordon.
“It was a mini pro day,” Gordon said in a phone interview this week. “It was a meet and greet with some teams.”
The former LSU tight end crammed four months worth of NFL prep into five days – phone interviews with coaches, dinners with scouts, that mini pro day at LSU.
All of it came a week before the draft, a flurry that unfolded only after the NCAA denied Gordon and LSU’s request – and then subsequent appeal – for a fifth-year of eligibility. The 310-pound John Curtis product hasn’t spoke publicly since the NCAA’s denial.
He’s still unhappy.
“I was very disappointed,” said Gordon, a three-year starter at LSU who ruptured his Achilles midway through his senior season last year.
“From talking to everybody at LSU they felt strongly I was going to get my year back, and it was just going to take some times for the NCAA to go through the process,” he said. “It was really a game changer when they told me no. I really thought I was coming back to school for another year.”
Instead, Gordon signed an undrafted free agent contract with the Philadelphia Eagles. He was unsure on details of the deal, but he’s just happy to have it. After all, he began draft prep on April 22. The draft began April 28.
“We did everything I was supposed to do from January to April in those five days,” Gordon said.
Gordon couldn’t meet with or train in front of NFL teams like Jones or Mills because, he said, it would have affected his eligibility if the NCAA eventually ruled in favor of his request for an extra year. He was also in the midst of recovering from that Achilles injury. He’s now “85-90 percent” recovered, he said.
“We were playing the waiting game with the NCAA,” Gordon said. “It prevented me from talking to team and working out.”
Gordon’s request for a fifth-year of eligibility was denied four times, he said – first by a Southeastern Conference committee and then by three separate NCAA committees. A third NCAA committee denied Gordon’s medical fifth-year a week before the draft. He decided against appealing the decision to a fourth NCAA committee.
“There was another step we could have took,” he said, “but I didn’t want to wait any longer for them just to say no.”
So he began that NFL prep, with 1-year-old daughter Leah in mind.
“I’ve got a family to support,” Gordon said.
He leaves Sunday for Philadelphia. The Eagles’ three-day rookie mini camp begins next Friday. He’ll play tight end his rookie season while also learning guard and tackle positions – spots he’s never played during his football career, Gordon said.
For LSU, it’s a huge – literally – loss. Gordon served as a key run-blocker for the Tigers. At 6-5, 310 pounds, he was bigger, even, than some of the tackles playing beside him.
Gordon plans to return to LSU during the NFL off-season to get his degree, but he’ll never play at Tiger Stadium again because of the NCAA’s ruling.
According to the NCAA rule, a player can receive another year of eligibility for medical reasons if they played in less than one-third of the season and if all of the playing time came in the first half of the season (excluding bowl games). Gordon played in part of three games, meeting the first condition, but he didn’t meet the second condition, according to the SEC and NCAA committees.
He played in his final game against Florida. It was the sixth official game of LSU’s 11-game regular season or the seventh game of a 12-game season – depending on how you look at it. LSU’s season opener against McNeese was canceled because of lightning after each team played one offensive series. The game was ruled as a no-contest.
“They counted the first game, the McNeese game and to them that makes the Florida game the seventh game,” Gordon said in explaining the NCAA’s ruling. “LSU was trying to appeal that they shouldn’t have counted that (McNeese) game which would make the Florida game the sixth game, which would make me eligible.”
Gordon played in just one full game – the true season opener at Mississippi State. He partially ruptured his Achilles tendon on the Tigers’ second possession in Game 2 against Auburn.
He completely tore the Achilles on the team’s second offensive series against Florida a month later.
“It’s probably the most excruciating pain in my 22 years of living,” he said. “I practiced the week of the Florida game and week before. I didn’t have any problems. Some people say I came back too fast. Some people say it was going to have regardless whenever I came back.”
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @RossDellenger.