199th pick of the draft is not just any old Joe

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 2, 2010 - 11:42 PM

He's Joe Webb, a freakishly athletic football player on whom the Vikings took a flier in the sixth round. Smart move.

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Joe Webb can catch, run and throw and is 6-3 and 223 pounds. All of that makes him a very intriguing part of the Vikings’ 2010 rookie class.

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

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Neil Callaway was Auburn's offensive coordinator when Bo Jackson won the Heisman Trophy in 1985. Twenty-four years later, he was Alabama-Birmingham's coach when Joe Webb became the first player in NCAA history to post consecutive seasons of 2,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing.

"Bo's the best athlete that's ever been," Callaway said. "But I'm going to say this: Joe's in that same league with Bo."

If that's true at the NFL level, the Vikings just made the finest 199th pick in the draft since the Patriots stumbled upon a man named Brady 10 years ago.

"I remember Bo like it was yesterday," said Webb, a 6-3, 223-pounder born in Birmingham the year after Bo won the Heisman. "His hometown [Bessemer, Ala.] is about 15 minutes from where I grew up. Everybody knows Bo. Just to be mentioned with him is pretty amazing."

Jackson was a freakishly athletic superstar, an all-star in baseball and football, and the Nike pitchman who made the words "Bo Knows" a lifelong mantra for people old enough to remember the 1980s and early 1990s.

Webb is a relative nobody trying to become somebody we never forget. Whether he's successful, who knows? But his size, speed, athleticism and late-round selection make him one of this year's more intriguing draft picks.

Webb was a college quarterback who spent 2008 running for 1,427 yards, the third-highest total by a quarterback in NCAA history. He also played receiver quite well in 2007 and again at the Senior Bowl, where he showed the Vikings he was worth a sixth-round pick as a receiver/athlete.

Webb wasn't among the more than 300 prospects invited to the NFL scouting combine. But he did wow scouts at UAB's pro day when he ran a 4.4 40-yard dash, bench-pressed 225 pounds 21 times and reached 42 1/2 inches on his vertical jump. Throw in the big body and the large mitts and it's tough not to wager a sixth-rounder on this guy's potential.

"I know some of the scouts had Joe at 4.3," Callaway said. "So he's got plenty of speed. And when you see how big and physical he is, he'll beat them little DBs up."

Webb wasn't a pro-style quarterback, but he does have the kind of arm that could make him a natural fit for the Wildcat formation.

"To stand there and throw it 30 times in that league, I don't think Joe's that," Callaway said. "But he'll throw that sucker 70, 80 yards in the air."

Webb also has become a bit of a YouTube sensation for a clip that shows him jumping over seven blocking dummies stacked close to 6 feet tall. He did it in Atlanta while training for his pro day.

"It was just basically messing around," Webb said. "The offensive and defensive linemen started off with three bags, four bags."

Then they motioned for Webb, who did five bags easily. Then six. Then seven bags turned into 77,196 views on YouTube.

"I've been checking it now and then," he said. "I see the views keep going higher and higher."

YouTube has become a popular place for NFL prospects to distinguish themselves leading up to the draft.

San Jose State defensive end Jarron Gilbert, a 2009 third-round pick of the Bears, was filmed standing in the shallow end of a pool and broad-jumping out of the water to a standing position without using his hands. YouTube views as of Sunday: 2,547,859.

Wyoming safety John Wendling, a 2007 sixth-round pick of the Bills, hopped over a 66-inch hurdle. YouTube views as of Sunday: 472,518.

Hawaii offensive lineman Tala Esera, a 2007 rookie free agent with the Dolphins, was filmed purposely ramming his head through the wall of a weight room. YouTube views as of Sunday: 38,045.

"I wasn't there when Joe jumped the dummies, but I did see him stand flat-footed and jump onto a box that was 52 inches high," Callaway said. "I'd never seen anybody do that before in my life."

Not even Bo?

"Bo was one of a kind now," Callaway said. "But y'all are going to love Joe. He's a great guy. A gem. There ain't nothing you can say bad about Joe Webb."

Mark Craig • mcraig@startribune.com

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