Mike Orakpo hasn't had the easiest or most straightforward football career.
The Texas State Bobcats linebacker and brother of Brian Orakpo simply known as 'Rak came to San Marcos after a turbulent year at Colorado State and a quick spell at Baylor where he never actually enrolled. Once in San Marcos, he turned his career around, became the face of the program, and became a real threat to opposing offenses in Texas State's first year in the Sun Belt Conference.
However, his troubles wouldn't end there. A torn ACL/MCL caused by a brutal cut block from a Navy lineman ended his 2014 season two games in, and the NCAA decided against offering him a sixth year of eligibility despite his injury. Any normal player's path to the NFL would've ended right then and there.
But Orakpo is no normal player.
Where to start? Well, how about his Pro Day?
Brian Orakpo (@rak98) March 24, 2015
That's six months out of treatment for an injury that's been known to end many a career. The guy is a physical freak, and could be the most talented athlete to have ever come through Texas State. He's versatile and can fill in as an inside or outside linebacker as well as a hybrid LB/DE pass rusher on the line of scrimmage.
He also plays angry and with a swiftness that is rarely seen on Sun Belt gridirons. His ability to shed blocks and pursue opposing quarterbacks and running backs is outstanding, and Orakpo certainly doesn't shy away from contact.
In addition to his standout play on the field--he led the team in tackles for loss (10), sacks (4.5), and forced fumbles (3) in 2013--he is also a natural leader and became an emotional center for the team.
'Rak is also an interesting story in that he has sincerely grown as a person after being dismissed from Colorado State after being involved in roughing up four CSU students. Character concerns would normally be warranted in the case of a player that brutally assaulted four college kids, but Orakpo has taken the second chance offered to him by Dennis Franchione and was, by all accounts, nothing but a model citizen during his time in San Marcos.
Orakpo's ACL/MCL tear against Navy robbed him of the chance to really stand out as an NFL prospect. He was able to work out a little bit at Texas State's Pro Day, but scouts didn't want him to overextend himself and wouldn't let him do position drills.
It's a testament to his will and strength that 'Rak was able to even get back to doing drills at Pro Day, but the injury kept him out of the Combine and will negatively affect his draft status.
Compared to the rest of his skillset, his pass coverage abilities don't stand out as much. That doesn't necessarily mean he can't do pass coverage in a pinch, but his downhill running ability is much more impressive.
If Orakpo could've stayed healthy, there was a solid chance that he would've been a surefire draft pick along with Bobcat teammate Craig Mager. Unfortunately, he'll have to hope that an NFL team will be willing to take a chance on him like Dennis Franchione and Texas State did, albeit under different circumstances.
Luckily for him, a record 19 NFL teams turned up at Texas State's Pro Day to see the positive steps he's taken on the road to physical recovery, and his hometown Houston Texans may be interested. Having Orakpo and former Bobcat Darryl Morris on the roster could set up a valuable pipeline between San Marcos and the Texans in the future.
Not working out at the Combine will certainly hurt his draft stock, and more than likely Orakpo will have to take his chances as an undrafted free agent. However, his elite athleticism, pursuit, and pass rushing skills could be hard to ignore for a team looking for depth at linebacker and/or special teams. A late round draft pick is certainly not out of the question for this Texas State standout.