When speaking with former University of Virginia guard Branden Albert you can hardly believe you are speaking with possibly the most versatile and sought after lineman in the entire upcoming 2008 NFL Draft.
Albert’s unassuming, low key personality belies a 6-6, 315 pound frame that will
undoubtedly be selected in the first round of the draft and has many NFL scouts drooling
over his athleticism and quickness for a man of his considerable size.
“It makes me feel good and makes me feel like I made the right decision,” said Albert
about his standing as the unquestioned #1 guard in the draft after leaving school a year
early. “People are recognizing my talent and I’m just happy to be in the situation I am.”
But when the conversation turns to how it makes him feel when, as a guard, he “pulls” and sees a lowly defensive back impeding his forward progress, Albert’s relaxed tone quickly becomes accelerated at the thought of wiping out an overmatched foe. Imagine doing that for Chiefs running back Larry Johnson.
“It’s a great feeling. You know those guys are going to either try and cut you, or take you
head on and you know which one I’m gonna win.
When I come around the corner and a guy isn’t going to cut me, and I got you on the ropes, than I’m gonna get you.
A lot of guys think they can duck and dodge me because I’m so much bigger, but that’s when I show them my athletic ability.”
Perhaps one reason he lacks the arrogance of many a projected first round draft pick is
because he is relatively new to the game of self promotion.
Branden Albert was rated the #38 overall offensive lineman in the country by scout.com after his senior season. Mainly because he didn’t start playing football until his junior year.
Until then he focused solely on basketball because of his large size and abnormally quick feet.
“I was always big in high school. My junior year I was 340 and senior year I dropped down
to 310. I never head to work to put on the mass like some guys, said Albert.
“But I switched (to football) because of the fact that I had the potential to make it to the pro level, even if just by numbers alone. The roster size is so much bigger in the NFL compared to the NBA it’s more realistic.”
Though he played left tackle in high school, when Albert arrived at Virginia playing tackle wasn’t an option because the team already had two senior starters at the position; one of which is current Jets left tackles and #4 overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, D’Brickashaw Ferguson.
Instead, he learned a new position to get him on the field more frequently.
“We had two good senior tackles and they were looking for a way to get me in the lineup so
guard was a natural progression,” said Branden Albert about the conversion to guard. “I did well my first year and they just kept me there.”
Learning a new position seemed tedious at the time but in hindsight, as the undisputed
top guard in this year’s NFL Draft, the conversion to guard was the best thing that could
“Yes that is working to my advantage a lot right now. There are a lot of pro teams
considering me at tackle, but at the same time I am the consensus #1 guard in the draft so
I’m in my own class in a sense thanks to the circumstances.”
Feeding the speculation of being switched back to left tackle at the next level, Albert started two games at the position last year because of injury and exceeded expectations.
“I made the transition pretty easily. I felt real good out there because I played tackle in high school so it wasn’t totally new. It felt really easy to me.”
Albert’s ability to play both guard and tackle positions has fanned the flames of his draft stock in the eyes of NFL scouts.
“If you have versatility (to play multiple positions) you double your chances of playing at the next level. I feel like a lot of teams that’s the main thing they are trying to see right away; if I can play tackle right away.
And I feel like I can because I’m an athletic guy. It’s probably different from playing tackle in college, but I feel I can do it over time in the NFL.”
Speaking of his impending rise to the next level, Albert had several “Wow” moments as he rubbed shoulders with the NFL’s elite at the 2008 NFL Combine in Indianapolis last month.
When asked of a favorite, he couldn’t single any one out.
“Everybody man! I spoke to everybody; Jack Del Rio, Herm Edwards, Ozzie Newsome,
John Harbaugh, Marvin Lewis, all the head coaches.
Said Brandon Albert, “All the GM’s I’d seen on TV were talking to me and I was like, “Damn all these guys are showing interest in me! It was a reality check to see the interest I was getting. It made me feel like I was playing with the big boys now.”
One thing Albert has on his resume that none of the other prospective first rounders can lay claim to is battling a hands down top three pick in defensive end Chris Long every day for three years.
“I think it’s a huge advantage. I mean that is what really helped me develop as much as
anything and no one else (in the Draft) has that in their back pocket,” said Albert.
“Me and him wanted to constantly beat each other in practice. He always told me, ‘Man, you’re a tackle.’ When I moved to tackle for those first two games last year I was somewhat tentative because it had been a couple years and he really reassured me a lot.
Working against him was great for me because I could see where I was at against the best
defender in college and I knew if I could hang with him, I could do it for real in the NFL.”
With the Draft drawing nearer with each passing day, and with Branden Albert’s NFL Combine performance in the books, the pre-Combine hype has receded somewhat but not completely as he prepares for the life of a first round NFL Draft pick.
“It’s been kinda crazy the whole time since the season ended, but it’s started to slow down
now with the Draft finally coming,” said Albert.
“It’s still hectic because people like you are
calling me, asking me about what I’m doing and all that. It’s still ongoing but it’s been a
Thanks to running the gamut and meeting representatives from every NFL team at the
Combine, Branden Albert knows what lies ahead.
When asked if there was a particular team he would prefer to play for, Albert answered the question in the same way he answered every other question he was asked; with a level of humility uncommon for a future millionaire athlete.
“I want to play for anyone who wants to draft me,” said Albert in closing.
“I am very fortunate to be where I’m at and that is the attitude that got me where I am. So there is no reason to change now.”