There’s no rest for the wicked. And none for college prospects trying to make their way into the NFL. Take it from UCLA guard Jon Gaines II. NFLPA Bowl, East/West Shrine Bowl, Combine, all in the span of about six weeks. It was all critical exposure for him and if there’s someone who legitimately saw their stock rise during that time, it was him.
Speaking at last week’s Combine, Gaines described the experience.
“Physically it’s draining, of course,” he said during his media interview. “We were joking, it’s kind of like fall camp. Just the exact same structure we had at UCLA. You do three days on, one day off. That was my day of travel and then right back to practice.”
Each event was a step up. The East/West Shrine Game has grown in popularity and exposure with some top picks, like Boston College WR Zay Flowers, choosing it over the Senior Bowl. Earning that NFL Combine invite was even more important, putting him on the stage with over 300 of his draft eligible peers and crucially, front and center to every front office in football.
Gaines had a solid workout, looking fluid and athletic in drills. Those numbers are reflected in his testing, highlighted by a 4.45 short shuttle. Historically for offensive linemen, times under 4.47 strongly correlate to NFL success: Jason Kelce, Joel Bitonio, Anthony Castonzo, Logan Mankins, and many other household names all had times under that mark.
While 2023 has been an exhausting ride, Gaines says the information he’s gathered along the way has been invaluable.
“It was really exciting though being able to learn from NFL coaches, they will have that experience…learning about the specifics and detail orientation is something really valuable and seeing what coaches want to see from you. And a lot of it is just straining and knowing what you’re doing and being accountable. And that’s all you could ever ask of me.”
Gaines’ can-do attitude applies to the field, too. He played everywhere along the Bruins’ line, seeing time at center, tackle, and guard. The more you can do, the more value you have, and Gaines is focusing on highlighting that ability to scouts.
“I know a lot of teams will be looking at me to be able to be a guy that plays a lot of different positions and fill a lot of shoes. So for me, snapping the ball is something I’m really trying to work on and working on my sets within that as a center. And I’m working as a left side guard too. I think it’s really important to showcase that you can do a lot of things and wear a lot of hats.”
Most of his time has come at right guard and it’s his truest position in a class that isn’t strong at prospects who primarily played guard throughout their career. That’ll give him an edge and could have his name called earlier on draft day than some expect.
Look for a complete profile on Gaines for next months’ draft.