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Morrell hopes to be ODU's first NFL draft pick
Morrell hopes to be ODU's first NFL draft pick

D.J. Morrell said he's seen many NFL draft projections filled with misinformation.

Morrell, a 6-foot-6, 325-pound offensive lineman from Old Dominion, is rated the nation's 58th-best offensive guard by DraftInsider.net. Thesidelinereport.com rates him the nation's 810th-best senior.

If those projections are correct, Morrell won't be selected among the approximately 240 players to be drafted in seven rounds starting Thursday night in New York.

He thinks he will beat the odds.

"Some sites have my height and weight wrong," he said. "They make so many mistakes. They're not really worth paying attention to.

"I've heard from a lot of scouts. Some have told me that I'll go in the fifth to seventh rounds. I think I'll be drafted."

If so, he would be the first ODU player drafted, and he hopes to be the first to play in the NFL.

Several former ODU players have been to NFL camps. Former quarterback Thomas DeMarco has established himself in the Canadian Football League the past few years.

It's only a matter of time before an ODU player dons an NFL uniform, coach Bobby Wilder said.

Quarterback Taylor Heinicke, receiver Larry Pinkard and long snapper Rick Lovato are rising seniors getting a solid look from NFL scouts.

Wilder likes Morrell's chances. So does Joel Turner, who along with his brother, Justin, are serving as Morrell's agents.

"He's had a number of teams call him," Joel Turner said. "Three called him in one day" last week.

"The interest level is exactly what you'd expect," Turner added. "He has a draftable grade. No one truly knows where you're going to fall. Probably in the top 100 or top 150.

"A handful of really good players don't get drafted. But regardless, he'll be in a National Football League camp."

Morrell, who transferred to ODU from junior college, started two seasons for the Monarchs. He graduated in December with a degree in communications.

The Turner brothers urged him to go to Atlanta to train at the Chip Smith Performance facility. But he declined, preferring to remain at home in Norwalk, Conn. He wanted to be close to his family, especially his brother, Brian, who was paralyzed in a car accident in 2012.

"My mother is by herself and I felt like I needed to be here with her," Morrell said.

He has been spending at least four hours a day training. He's worked on his footwork as well and strength and speed conditioning.

"Big fellows put on weight easily, but he hasn't done that," Turner said. "His strength has really improved and his weight has stayed steady at about 325."

Two other ODU seniors are hopeful of landing NFL free-agent contracts. Placekicker Jarod Brown, the school's career leading scorer, is receiving interest from several teams, including the Detroit Lions.

Brown, recently profiled in the Detroit Free Press, owns the Heinz Field record in Pittsburgh with a 54-yard field goal.

"I've heard from a number of teams," Brown said. "Hopefully, I'll get a shot somewhere."

Offensive tackle Jack Lowney, a 6-4, 295-pound native of Narberth, Pa., also hopes for a free-agent contract. He has recently been attending CFL tryout camps as well.

Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald is being hailed a potential first-round pick. That makes Morrell smile. When ODU lost at Pitt, the Monarchs moved Morrell from tackle to guard to block Donald.

For most of the game, Donald was largely ineffective. Late in the game, the Panthers moved Donald to end to get him away from Morrell.

"Scouts that have called said they liked my film," Morrell said. "It was a group effort that day against Donald, but I think that film helps me."

So does Morrell's versatility, said Turner.

"He can play either guard or tackle," Turner said. "Some NFL teams only dress out eight offensive linemen in a game. He fits the mold of what a lot of teams are looking for, a hard-working guy with incredible size who can play several positions."

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