At Wisconsin’s pro day earlier this month, star quarterback Russell Wilson wowed scouts with his athleticism, accuracy and ability to throw on the move.
When Wilson and the Badgers’ other prospects hit the showers, Wisconsin’s small-school players got their chance.
Wisconsin-Whitewater’s championship quarterback, Matt Blanchard, sat through Wilson’s workout and rewarded the scouts who stuck around with an impressive performance of his own.
“It was a great experience. It was a lot of fun,” Blanchard told Packer Report. “We got there a little early and I was able to watch the Madison guys work out. It looked as though all the scouts stuck around to watch us, and I think a lot of us put up some good numbers. I was really happy with how I performed throwing the ball. I thought I performed up to my expectations and maybe heightened an awareness around my name among some other teams and sparked a little more interest.”
Blanchard put up a lot of impressive numbers for the Warhawks, including 70.4 percent accuracy with 44 touchdown passes against five interceptions in his two seasons as the starter. Most impressive is a career record of 25-0 as Whitewater won its second and third consecutive Division III national championships.
Blanchard went to Whitewater to get an education and win championships – the Warhawks and Mount Union have faced each other in the last seven Division III title games. It wasn’t until before his junior season, when a New York Jets scout arrived on campus to watch film and put Blanchard and his fellow juniors through a Scouting Combine-style workout called a junior day, that he started dreaming the impossible dream.
“After that and having some conversations with him and my coaches, going into the offseason of my junior year, it was like, wow, this is an opportunity that’s really close,” Blanchard said. “The biggest thing for me was to stay healthy and play well for my team and let everything else take care of itself. Sure enough, we had a great season and I put up some good numbers and everything’s working out the way I wanted it to.”
After the season, Blanchard and fellow Division III quarterback Alex Tanney (Monmouth) played at the Players All-Star Classic in Little Rock, Ark. At 6-foot-3, Blanchard has prototypical size, and while he’s not as fast as Wilson, his 40-yard time of 4.69 was superb.
The all-star game was a big deal in helping Blanchard show he can compete against NFL-caliber competition.
“The biggest thing was playing down in Little Rock, I was able to answer those questions,” he said. “Being able to play with other prospects in this draft, I thought I played well with those guys. Being a 6-3 guy and having the measurables, I thought I could play at that level. I’ve always looked at it as, it doesn’t matter how you start college or how you start this process, it’s all about how you finish. I felt like I answered a lot of those questions, and if they ask me, I use it to my advantage and play with a chip on my shoulder. I enjoy having that kind of card just because I can surprise a lot of people.”
To prepare for his pro day and the draft process, Blanchard spent about five weeks working out with former Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Yo Murphy’s Hybrid Sports Performance facility in Tampa, Fla. Blanchard is not expected to get drafted but he’ll find his way onto an offseason roster, either as a free agent or a rookie tryout camp.
“It’s going to be great,” Blanchard said. “It’s something that I’ve wanted to do my entire life. At Whitewater, you don’t plan on an NFL career but the stars are aligning right now. Whenever I get an opportunity, I’m going to have to seize it and make the most of it.”
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.