By this time next week, Southeast Missouri State All-American offensive lineman Drew Forbes will know which National Football League team he will be suiting up for in 2019.
The NFL Draft begins tomorrow night, and Forbes is expecting to be one of the 253 players to have their names called in one of the seven rounds on either Friday or Saturday.
No matter which team drafts Forbes to help solidify its offensive line, he is ready for the next level.
Forbes’ football career began in seventh grade at North County, and up to that point he had yet to play a contact sport. He wanted to try it out because his father played football, and he had a great-great-grandfather who had also played at SEMO.
Forbes played both basketball and soccer before going out for football, and he learned in football on the offensive line that players must be a unit.
“There’s other sports like basketball where you’re a team still and you rely on each other, but on the offensive line you have to rely on the guy next to you,” Forbes said. “You’re working together towards a goal — there’s such a bond formed like a brotherhood on the offensive lines I’ve played on.”
Forbes said the relationships he’s been able to create with fellow offensive lineman is perhaps his favorite aspect of playing football. Forbes played on both the offensive and defensive line at North County, where he was able to garner all-conference honors at both positions.
During his junior year is when Forbes stepped down from playing basketball during the winter, so that his primary focus was football in order to become a better player and explore playing on the college level.
“I really started training over that winter and heading into my senior year,” Forbes said. “Throughout that summer I took the seriousness of the game to a whole new level and developed my body.”
There has never been a player from North County selected in the NFL Draft, but current Tennessee Titans linebacker Will Compton was close to being the first in 2013 after playing four years at Nebraska. Compton was one of the people Forbes looked up to in high school.
“I still watch him play in the NFL now, and I wanted to do that,” Forbes said. “I saw his path and his journey, and it really gave me a fire and drive to want to do the same thing.”
Following his final season at North County, Forbes said he had a total of eight offers from Football Championship Subdivision programs including SEMO, which was his first college offer. One of the main reasons why Forbes signed with Southeast is because of the loyalty the program showed him.
“They were like, ‘We want to have you, but we think there could be FBS teams that will show interest, and by all means if an FBS team talks to you and wants to bring you on — we’re happy for you, and we understand what you’re doing,’” Forbes said. “I appreciated that from them, and from then it stuck home [SEMO] was going to be my home.”
Forbes was a three-year starter as the Redhawks left tackle, where he earned All-Ohio Valley Conference honors twice and was named to the FCS All-American team following his senior campaign. Forbes also helped lead Southeast to its first-ever playoff win as the Redhawks finished 9-4 overall in 2018.
One former offensive lineman from Southeast who was able to have a lengthy NFL career is none other than former New England Patriot and Super Bowl XLIX Champion Dan Connolly. Connolly went undrafted in 2005 after being a four-time All-OVC selection, but he was able to start 71 games for the Patriots under head coach Bill Belichick, while protecting quarterback Tom Brady.
Forbes had the pleasure of meeting Connolly after SEMO’s homecoming this year. Connolly, who owns a DI training facility in St. Louis, invited Forbes to work out with him for two weeks.
“He put me through the Patriots warm-up, and that’s an interesting thing to call a warm-up — I’ll say the least,” Forbes joked. “It’s a long process, and he talked to me about draft day how it’s going to be very hectic. He and I got to sit down and watch some tape, and he really went through their call system and how you’re identifying those [defensive] fronts and matchups.”
Matchups are a big part of college football, but after Forbes talked with Connolly he said it seems like every play in the NFL is revolved around matchups. He believes knowing this information early on will be a key piece for him to stick around and excel in the league.
Forbes, among many other players who will hear their names called in the draft this week, was not invited to the NFL Combine, where all 32 teams interview and scout participants competing in multiple drills over a week.
However, Forbes was able to work out openly for any teams that wanted to scout him in person at SEMO’s Pro Day on March 26. Eight teams made the trip to Cape Girardeau to watch Forbes and four other Redhawks — the Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions, Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans Saints and finally the New York Jets.
These eight teams were in for a show as Forbes had some of the best results compared to offensive lineman from the combine by placing in the top 12 of five drills. The most coveted drill in the combine is the 40-yard dash, where Forbes posted a time of 4.87 seconds, which ranks first among lineman from this year’s combine.
Forbes also benched press 225 pounds 28 times to rank ninth among combine participants, sixth in the three-cone drill (7.59) and 10th in the vertical jump (30.5 inches). Lastly, he ranked 11th in the 20-yard shuttle drill (4.59).
Before his pro day, Forbes was able to train in Nashville for two months. He has now been flying across the country meeting with teams for private workouts and interviews. Forbes said he has met with a total of six teams leading up to the draft, and he is hoping to have his name called on day two or three.
“You have all these interviews and all these meetings you’re going through, and that’s the stressful part,” Forbes said. “That’s the, ‘Hey, who are you? What are you about?’ They are really kind of pyschoanalyzing you. With the drills at that point I’m in my own on the field — that’s honestly the easiest part of the process. For those scouts seeing me do that — that’s just checking one of many boxes.”
In the history of the NFL Draft, 12 players from SEMO have been picked as Tony Walker was the highest selection at 148th overall in 1990. One of Forbes’ former teammates Kendall Donnerson was drafted last year in the seventh round by the Green Bay Packers with the 248th pick.