Seventeen NFL scouts and an NFL assistant coach made the drive down Route 1 to the first Dover exit and eventually found their way to the campus of Wesley College, which is not a place these guys usually visit.
That alone tells you that Matt Gono is a special player, since so many NFL people made a special trip to see the big kid from the small school.
Gono is an All-American tackle at Wesley, and there’s a good chance he’ll do something no other Wolverine has ever done – get drafted by the NFL. There is one former Wesley player on a current NFL roster, quarterback Joe Callahan of the Green Bay Packers, but Callahan was signed as a free agent after the draft, not as a selection during it.
It’s not guaranteed that Gono will be drafted, but the odds are good. This week, he was in Chicago visiting the Bears, one of the 17 teams that sent a scout to Dover on March 23 for Wesley’s pro day, which also featured wide receiver James Okike and running back Jamar Bayard, who have an outside chance of signing somewhere as undrafted free agents.
But those scouts were there to see Gono, and other teams that will bring him in for workouts and interviews include San Francisco, Jacksonville, Atlanta and Detroit — and then, on April 28, Gono will find out if all of his hard work has paid off. That’s the third and final day of the draft, and if he is to be selected, that’s when it will happen.
Gono has the size (6-foot-4, 317 pounds) and athleticism that NFL teams like, but he lacks the big-time experience against major-college competition. NFL teams generally aren’t impressed by Division III players who dominate teams like Kean and Brockport State. But Gono does have the nasty attitude NFL teams like in their o-linemen and he does have those physical tools, including a better-than-average time of 5.1 in the 40-yard dash.
His big break came in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, which is run by the NFL players’ union to showcase players who don’t get invited to the NFL combine, including many players from small schools like Wesley. That event was held in Pasadena, Calif., at the Rose Bowl – which is a long way from Miller Stadium in Dover – and Gono more than held his own against Division I competition during practices and in the game.
That pushed him from being a probable after-draft signing to a probable during-draft selection. Gono is mostly projected as a guard in the NFL. Lance Zierlein of NFL.com said of the Wesley All-American: “Gono could be a late-round, stash-and-coach project with average upside. Better-than-average chance to make NFL roster.”
So, there’s a good chance Mel Kiper Jr. knows who this kid is. Gono was born in Liberia and moved to the United States when he was 5, and his family settled in Cinnaminson, N.J., about 70 miles from Dover as the crow flies. He obviously wasn’t recruited very heavily, which is why he ended up at Wesley, but he developed faster and better than anybody could have anticipated.
And now he’s on the verge of making Wesley history.
“We’re so proud of Matt,” Wesley coach Mike Drass said. “Matt’s a special player with a bright professional future.”
Callahan’s professional future will probably be decided during training camp. He spent most of the last three seasons as the Packers’ No. 3 quarterback and last year finally played in his first NFL game, mopping up in a 35-11 loss to Detroit in the final game of the season. In his short stint against the Lions Callahan completed 5 of 7 passes for 11 yards and a passer rating of 74.0.
The Packers’ season was derailed in 2017 when All-Pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers was lost for year with a broken collarbone. No. 2 QB Brett Hundley underwhelmed as Rodgers’ replacement, as the Pack went 3-6 with Hundley as the starter. This offseason, the Packers traded with Cleveland for quarterback DeShone Kizor, a former second-round draft pick from Notre Dame, and there’s always the possibility Green Bay could draft a quarterback in a late round, so Callahan’s future is murky right now.
Still, if the Packers decide Kizor is No. 2, they could part ways with the disappointing Hundley and once again keep Callahan on the roster as the No. 3 QB who runs the scout team. The Packers thought enough of Callahan – who was an exclusive-rights free agent – to tender him a contract for this coming season.
And that could mean two players from Wesley College will be cashing NFL paychecks in 2018.