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LSU tight end Stephen Sullivan (10), of Donaldsonville, reacts on the field as confetti falls following LSU's 42-25 win over Clemson in the National Championship, Monday, January 13, 2020, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, La.

MOBILE, Ala. — Stephen Sullivan quite literally didn't know how far he could spread his wings until he left college.

On Tuesday, the former LSU tight end and wide receiver lifted his arms inside the Mobile Convention Center, a Senior Bowl assistant measured Sullivan from middle finger to middle finger, and the auditorium full of NFL scouts and coaches clicked their pens and jotted down the number.

Wingspan: 85⅛ inches.

This 6-foot-5 receiver had a 7-foot-1 arm span — enough of a difference to make Leonardo da Vinci's symmetrical Vitruvian Man seem like a completely inaccurate theory.

"When they measured it, I was just as shocked as they were," Sullivan said. "I think it's definitely a big advantage for me, and I plan on taking advantage of it."

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How big of an advantage is it?

For reference, former Ole Miss wide receiver DK Metcalf set an unofficial NFL combine record for wide receivers last year with a recorded wingspan of 82⅞ inches. 

Add about three more inches, and you've got Sullivan.

Suddenly a play like his 2018 Hail Mary touchdown catch against Louisiana Tech right before halftime starts to make more sense.

The wingspan explains more of why LSU coaches viewed Sullivan as a versatile receiver, someone who could create mismatches both as a tight end on the inside and a wide receiver spread to the sideline.

It explains why, even with his limited production — 12 catches for 130 yards this season — NFL teams are taking a close look at whether they'll spend a draft pick on him.

The Cincinnati Bengals are coaching the Sullivan's Senior Bowl "South" team, and tight end coach James Casey said such a wingspan can be a substantial advantage.

"I've got like the shortest wingspan in tight end history," said Casey, who played seven NFL seasons with the Houston Texans, Philadelphia Eagles and Denver Broncos. "I went to the combine myself, and everything was going pretty good until they measured my arm length. Then my draft stock plummeted because I got really short arms."

Casey held out an arm.

"I don't know what they are, but they're tiny," he said. "My wife always jokes with me because her arms are almost as long as mine."

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There's "not a ton of guys like (Sullivan) walking around the planet," Casey said. If you're as tall as he is, can run like he does and combine it with "the mindset and the intelligence and all the other stuff, shoot, you can turn yourself into a really good NFL player."

In short, Sullivan has the goods; he just has to win over NFL evaluators this week, during the lead-up to Saturday's Senior Bowl, performing against other tight ends like Cincinnati's Josiah Deguara and Vanderbilt's Jared Pinkney.

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Sullivan had to break out within his own talent-rich roster at LSU while adapting across his team's changing needs.

The school's record-breaking offense spread the ball among its dangerous wide receiver trio — Ja'Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson and Terrace Marshall — that combined for nearly 4,000 yards and 51 touchdowns.

Tight end Thaddeus Moss started in 14 games, recorded 47 catches for 570 yards and four touchdowns, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire set the school record for running backs with 55 catches for 453 yards and a touchdown.

Sullivan began the season as a tight end, a dynamic mismatch who could replicate some of the things former Saints tight end Jimmy Graham did while passing game coordinator Joe Brady was an offensive assistant in New Orleans.

Orgeron joked in the preseason that "our tight end is not an offensive tackle anymore," that he wanted "some athletes in that position that can stretch the field and give the defense some problems."

Sullivan had seven catches for 99 yards as a tight end through four games. Then Marshall fractured his foot against Vanderbilt, and Sullivan said Brady asked him to rotate back to wide receiver. He remained there even after Marshall returned after four games.

"We just went from there," Sullivan said. "When Terrace got back, I stayed over there. Whenever he needed a break or if he got hurt again, I was right there to back him up. Every time he scored a touchdown, I was right there waiting for him."

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Sullivan had five catches for 32 yards the remainder of the season. He said he got his "best spots at tight end" while at LSU, and that's the position NFL teams are expecting him to play.

His skill set and size bode well for a league with diverse schemes, perhaps most defined in the Super Bowl battle between the old-school pro-style offense of the San Francisco 49ers and the new-age spread of the Kansas City Chiefs.

"I feel like I fit well now," Sullivan said of today's NFL. "They have a lot of flex tight ends that could play receiver, that could go into the slot, play wide, go into the wing, whatever, and just get open, man, just find those mismatches. That's what I feel like I can be in the league."

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He'll have to show he can put his hand in the ground and block defenders while at the Senior Bowl. "Not that he can't block," Casey said, but that's probably what most evaluators want to see more from Sullivan.

Sullivan ran through blocking drills in Tuesday's practice, and Casey said he was impressed by how he came off the ball, how he didn't shy away from contact and executed pass-blocking schemes like backside cutoffs.

The technique needs some cleaning up, Casey said, but that can be coached up. The rest is already there, and it just may be enough for Sullivan to get a chance to spread those 7-foot-1 wings.

"He looks phenomenal," Casey said. "When you just look at him as a person, you're like, 'Jeez. That guy looks like he can be the guy for sure.' So, if he can show some of these other things, the blocking stuff and all the other stuff, the sky's the limit for guys who have that kind of ability."

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Email Brooks Kubena at bkubena@theadvocate.com.