Somewhere late in the first or early in the second round of the NFL draft, Austin Corbett’s name will be called. There will be plenty of shrugs and Google searches to follow for fans of whatever team drafts him, as they try to figure out who he is and what he can bring to the table.
Anonymity is nothing new for Corbett. He should be used to it by now. Corbett was a walk-on offensive lineman at the University of Nevada after playing as a 240-pound senior at Reed High School in Sparks, Nevada. For fans, he might be the most under-the-radar projected first-round pick in this year’s NFL draft.
Corbett is hardly unknown to NFL teams, though. A small-town kid with big-time dreams and goals, he has had workouts or visits with 15 teams in the lead-up to the draft. Among those teams were the New York Giants, Carolina Panthers, Minnesota Vikings, Atlanta Falcons and Dallas Cowboys.
The Giants, with the second pick of the second round (34th overall), are a realistic landing spot. They had a private workout with Corbett earlier this month. He fits general manager Dave Gettleman's plan to bolster the interior of the offensive line through the draft.
Corbett played tackle at Nevada, but he is projected as a guard in the NFL. Some even think center might be his best fit. Gettleman is expected to go after some “hog mollies” in the draft. Corbett, whose brother played offensive line at San Diego State, fits the Giants’ mold.
“Just kind of that offensive-line mentality comes from my dad,” Corbett said. “We’ve had some struggles and he’s been through rough times with jobs and the recession and all that. He’s had to do things. Getting laid off. But it doesn’t matter what is going on in your life, you have to work to keep a roof over your head.
“It’s that mentality that me and my brother have both taken on from my dad. That is what an offensive lineman is. No matter the situation or what is going on, you have a job to do. If you don’t do it, your team is going to suffer.”
It’s this approach that has allowed Corbett to blossom. After arriving at Nevada as a walk-on, he was the Wolf Pack’s starting left tackle during his redshirt freshman season. He was a team captain by the time he was a sophomore.
Corbett said the captaincy was something he lucked into. That’s more than a touch of modesty. Really, it was earned. His teammates respected the way he played through a painful ankle injury in the final 11 games of his freshman campaign and voted him a captain. He ended up being a three-year captain at Nevada.
"That’s kind of what I pride myself on,” Corbett said. “I’m going to help my brothers out. I’m going to get the job done for them, and really why I love playing offensive line. It’s not a glory position. I don’t want it to be. I want to do my work so other people can get the credit.”
Like it or not, there’s no denying the spotlight this week. Corbett will be noticed. He’ll follow in the footsteps of his friend and mentor Joel Bitonio, a former tackle at Nevada who was selected in the second round of the 2014 draft by the Cleveland Browns. He signed a $50 million contract extension last year.
Corbett is a realistic option to be in the mix for the Falcons at No. 26, Vikings at 30, Giants at 34 or Colts at 36 or 37.
“Just productive as hell,” said one scout who gave him a first-round grade. “Smart, competitive, just a really good player.”
With that kind of thinking by some teams, the days of flying under the radar and being the underdog are over. Corbett is about to be a high draft pick.
The undersized kid from a small town in Nevada could soon be in a big city.
“It’s definitely surreal because of where I grew up in Reno or in Sparks,” Corbett said. “Not a lot of kids have really made it this far. Just to be that one and bring it to us firsthand is crazy.
“When I started as a walk-on at Nevada, I was just happy to be there, just be a part of the team, and wanted to do everything I could to further that. This really is an opportunity to live out a dream, make the most of it.”
First- or second-round guards
OG Quenton Nelson (Notre Dame) -- Good chance he goes in the top 10. “Generational player,” said one scout. “Love the guy,” said another.
OG Will Hernandez (UTEP) -- Likely first-round pick. Physical. Really good run-blocker. Not a great athlete. “No worry about his anchor,” according to a scout. Immediate starter.
OT/OG Isaiah Wynn (Georgia) -- Likely first-round pick. Can also play tackle. Technically sound. Some question whether he can hold up physically.
G/C Austin Corbett (Nevada) -- Late-first/early-second pick. Productive college player. Competitive with quick feet. Not known as a mauler.
G/C Frank Ragnow (Arkansas) -- Late-first/early-second pick. Excellent balance and anchor. Plays with power. Rising up boards.