A month before the draft I texted an NFL personnel friend of mine to suggest FIVE players who would not go in the first round of the draft but might be the best at their positions.
On the list was Cam Jurgens, the center from Nebraska. A long time ago, in my era, there was a center from Nebraska, named Dave Rimington, who went on to a long NFL career with the Bengals. The award for the nation’s best college center every year is also called the Rimington Award. I soon pulled out the Michigan at Nebraska game since Michigan were the Big 10 champs and had one of the best defenses in college football full of NFL draft prospects. The very first play for Big Red was a slow screen left to Rahmir Johnson. Leading the way on the 43-yard gain on Nebraska's first offensive play was Cam Jurgens. In fact Jurgens blocked three players on his way down the left sidelines including the free safety 53 yards down the field. In my notes I wrote Kelce. As in Jason Kelce, center for the Philadelphia Eagles. It was not the last night I jotted Kelce in my notes. In the fourth quarter with Nebraska trailing 26-22, Big Red ran a play action pass to tight end Austin Allen for 13 yards over the middle. Pretty routine play except for what they asked the center to do. Jurgens snapped the ball to the quarterback, Adrian Martinez, in the shotgun formation, and immediately pulled out to block a blitzing David Ojabo.
Ojabo was one of the nation’s premier edge pass rushers. Jurgens stoned him and gave the quarterback an extra tick to locate his tight end over the middle. In my notes I wrote Kelce. I didn’t feel I needed to watch a whole lot more. I saw high level plays that required NFL quickness and agility combined with tremendous effort. The comparison to Kelce was immediate. But after I crossed-referenced my tape study with his measurables at the NFL Combine I realized that Jurgens is a bigger, faster version of Kelce with long arms and a bigger frame. Meanwhile, we have since come to realize that Kelce was assisting Howie Roseman and personnel director, Andy Weidl, in their breakdowns of eligible centers. He gave a full endorsement to the Eagles to draft this player and when it is time for me to hang up the cleats, perhaps Jurgens can man the center position for the next 10-12 years keeping the center position strong for years to come. Not many offensive lineman, or any position, would you find a player so willing to help find their replacement. So from Lincoln, Nebraska to Lincoln Financial Field, Cam Jurgens is now in Philadelphia after being selected with their 51st pick in the second round. On St. Patrick's Day this year, Kelce inked a one-year deal to remain with the Eagles, his 12th, in what might be his final season. But he has earned the goodwill of the Birds Brass to make his decision each year after the season ends to decide when he wants to hang up the cleats. Kelce was the 191st selection out of Cincinnati because he was slightly undersized and came from a smaller school. He overcame all the odds to put himself and his five pro-bowls and his four-time All-Pro nominations into serious consideration for Canton and the NFL Hall of Fame. But it came at a price where his body has taken a beating and he has left parts of many body parts embedded in the turf at LFF. Some thought he might walk away as many as two years ago but the pull for one more season with a band of brothers that he enjoys being around has pulled him back for another season. There were 18 starts in 2021 and a first team all-pro selection in what might have been his finest season. But if the mind can no longer convince Jason that he can return for a 13th season after 2022 then the Birds have the heir apparent in the building. Not just in the building. Jurgens will have his own personal tutor with Kelce. There is mutual respect amongst the two centers and the fact that Kelce helped in the selection process says that the Birds should remain strong in the "pivot" for years to come. Afterall. the center is a quarterback's best friend trying to stop the charge of some of the biggest and strongest men on the planet. *