MOBILE, Ala. – The road to the Senior Bowl hasn't always been a smooth one for Delaware quarterback Joe Flacco, but after watching him in practice this week, it's easy to see why he's one of only six non-Division I-A players in the game.
NFL scouts have raved about Flacco's size (he's 6 feet 6 and 232 pounds) and overall pocket presence. However, North coach Lane Kiffin of the Oakland Raiders said there were a few adjustments Flacco needed to make to this week.
"I think Joe has had to transition from being in the shotgun so much," Kiffin said. "He worked hard coming into this thing, and also this week on his footwork. He has a really strong arm. … He was throwing the ball 25 to 30 yards downfield and really just ripping it. When his arm strength gets on, his accuracy is really big time."
All week, Flacco has worked out with two of the better known senior quarterbacks in Division I-A — USC's John David Booty and Michigan's Chad Henne. Booty said he was familiar with Flacco from watching Delaware's I-AA playoff games, so seeing him have success in practice hasn't been a surprise.
"For us (Booty and Henne), we were put in the spotlight a little more than somebody would be at Delaware, but to be in this game, obviously people have heard about him and know what he can do," Booty said. "I think that says a lot about him, that he's able to get here playing for the program that he did."
Flacco was a three-star prospect out of Audubon (N.J.) High when he signed with Pittsburgh in 2003. (Another player from that Pitt signing class, offensive tackle Mike McGlynn, also is at the Senior Bowl.) Flacco transferred to Delaware after the 2004 season.
"The reason I went to Delaware was because I wanted to play," Flacco said. "I wasn't going to play at Pitt, and I wanted to go somewhere that I could be play and be seen. It worked out really well for me."
Flacco sat out the 2005 season because Pitt wouldn't release him from his scholarship, then started the past two seasons. Flacco set 20 school records in his career, and this season led the Blue Hens to the Division I-AA championship game –where Delaware lost to Appalachian State 49-21.
Flacco finished his senior season with 4,263 passing yards, 23 touchdowns and five interceptions. At one point this season, he had 212 consecutive pass attempts without an interception.
"I'm really just excited to be here and be in the whole environment with all these guys," he said. "I'm really just trying to come out here and play football like I've always done. Hopefully, things will work out good for me."
One team that appears to have honed in on Flacco is the Chicago Bears. Team scouts attended the I-AA title game to see Flacco, and Bears coach Lovie Smith and six of his assistants were interested observers at the North team practice Monday.
Flacco said he has heard he get could drafted anywhere from the second to the seventh round in the draft. He also said getting too caught up in that kind of stuff can only get you in trouble.
"I guess I don't know what the scouts are questioning," Flacco said. "From a personal standpoint, I want to get in here and show them I can pick up their offense as quickly as possible and make good decisions on the field and make completions.
"I think if I just go out there and play my game, everything is going to work itself out. If you watch the game film, you can see that I belong. This week will definitely be a big part of it, so hopefully if I keep doing things the way I'm supposed to, things will work out."