With the NFL draft upon us, a lot of the talk has been about Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, and a couple other guys for whom people have high expectations on the professional level. In the middle of the hype is west Texas native Ryan Tannehill. He is currently projected to be drafted anywhere between #3 and #12 overall in the first round of tonight's draft. Some wonder, with only 19 starts as a college quarterback, why he has been predicted to go so high in the draft. I think I know why. And this USAToday.com draft preview video only tells half the story.

I was living in his hometown of Big Spring, Texas, when Tannehill started his junior season at Texas A&M. The locals had a sense of pride about the fact that one of their own had moved on to play major college football, and quietly wondered why he wasn't picked to be the starting quarterback for the Aggies. At the time, he was a standout wide receiver for the A&M. Despite the fact that he competed for the quarterback job to start the 2010 season, his coaches had no plan to change the way Ryan contributed to the team. He would stay at wide receiver.

Tannehill never complained. He just wanted to help his team in any way he could.

However, in the fifth game of the season, he was put in at quarterback against Kansas to replace a struggling Jerrod Johnson. College football fans across the country would soon know what Big Spring, Texas had known for years: Ryan Tannehill is the real deal. He passed for 3 touchdowns that week, and and never looked back. The following week, he set an A&M school record with 449 passing yards, and the rest of the season he led his the Aggies to victories over #9 ranked Nebraska and #11 Oklahoma, as well as a win over Robert Griffin III's Baylor Bears.

With all the surprising buzz surrounding the Texas A&M program and its new star quarterback, interview requests shot through the roof. Head coach Mike Sherman decided to set limits to the number of interviews Tannehill was allowed to do per week, so he could focus on the team. But he stretched those limitations so that he could talk with local media in his hometown of Big Spring. In my time covering the success of Ryan Tannehill, I was able to interview him twice. Both interviews were set up through his father, Tim (who was also my son's middle school principal).

I've had the opportunity to interview hundreds of people over the years. Musicians, politicians, community organizers and sports figures. The sports figures tend to give the most predictable answers to my questions, but you can always learn something about a person's character, no matter how predictable the words out of his mouth may be. In my time spent with Ryan Tannehill, he ranks as one of the most appreciative, humble, and well-mannered people I have ever had the pleasure to interview. I particularly like the fact that he has never had to answer questions about his off-the-field behavior, because he is a genuinely good kid. His parents and west Texas raised him right, and it shines through with the way he carries himself.


In a time when you hear more and more about professional athletes' brushes with the law, issues with domestic violence, drugs, immoral behavior and more, character goes a long way in defining a man's worth to his team. Basically, you hear more about the poorly behaved than the good guys. Ryan Tannehill is one of the truly good guys. He gives owners, coaches, and teammates one less thing to worry about. Whichever NFL team is lucky enough to have Ryan will be glad to have him as the face of their franchise for years to come. And Big Spring and west Texas will have plenty of reason to be proud of its native son.

Will you be watching the NFL Draft? How would you like to have Ryan Tannehill on your favorite team?

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