On Saturday afternoon in St. Petersburg, Fla., Penn senior quarterback Alek Torgersen will continue his quest towards becoming an NFL quarterback when he competes in the prestigious East-West shrine game against other prospects.
While an NFL career may have seemed to be a farfetched idea after the Quakers’ 2-8 season in 2014, Torgersen has successfully propelled himself into a top quarterback over the last two years.
Many Penn passers can only dream of All-Ivy selections and league titles, but the California native has risen to the next level. He finished his career in West Philly as the Quakers’ all-time leader in passing touchdowns, completion percentage and total offense, and is now being projected as high as a fifth-round pick in some mock-drafts.
It was after 2015’s Ivy League title that Torgersen began to think that a professional career was a possibility, but he remained focus on winning a second championship. Scouts, however, were looking past the Ivy League season and towards the 2017 NFL Draft, which will be held in Philadelphia this April. Still, despite the whispers of a professional career, the senior admitted to being a little surprised when talk started to heat up following this season.
“It was a little out of left field, but nothing completely shocked me,” he said. “I think I have the skill to compete at the next level.”
The game this Saturday, an All-Star contest of sorts that allows college players to showoff their skills for NFL scouts, will provide an excellent opportunity for Torgersen to prove that he hasn’t merely been the beneficiary of beating up on lesser opponents.
The rosters primarily feature FBS players, meaning Torgersen will have to take on defensive backs and linebackers from powerhouses such as USC, Clemson and Michigan. However, Torgersen is not fazed by this challenge.
“The speed of the game is definitely a lot different,” he admitted.
But, despite the learning curve, NFL.com posted an article after the second day of pregame practices that stated Torgersen had separated himself from the pack as the best quarterback on the roster.
His measurables definitely have played a part in easing the transition to facing top defenders. At 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, he has the prototypical build of an NFL quarterback. But Torgersen also attributed his ascension to his time throwing the ball to junior Justin Watson for the last three years.
“Receivers from FBS schools have a similar skill set to him,” Torgersen said, noting that he is used to passing to elite pass catchers.
Now listed as high as the 10th-ranked quarterback in this year’s draft class, a professional contract is well within reach, while getting a shot to throw at the NFL Combine is also very possible for the young gunslinger.
Having already signed an agent, Torgersen just hopes in the upcoming days to solidify his standing and increase his likelihood of getting an invite to the combine in Indianapolis.
“I think I have the skill set to compete at the next level,” he stated. “I just want to improve my game as best as I can.”
Of course, unlike everyone else on this weekend’s roster, Torgersen still needs to complete his Penn degree. And while most other prospects have either graduated early or suspended their studies to pursue their career Torgersen will need to balance classes with draft preparation in the upcoming weeks and months.
“They live at training facilities and all they do is train,” Torgersen said of the other prospects. “I still gotta graduate.”
Head coach Ray Priore is excited not only for his young quarterback, but for the impact that the exposure could create for the program as well,
“It proves that we can have players play at the next level,” Priore said. “Yes, you can come to Penn get a great education, compete for championships and have the chance to compete at the next level.”
This weekend, Torgersen will have the chance to show scouts and a national audience how he fares against elite competition with the one goal of ensuring it isn’t the final game of his career.
“I’ll play for whoever wants to pay me to play football,” he said.
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