Viewed as something of an unknown, the 22-year-old quarterback from Southern Methodist University attracted little fanfare during the pre-draft period, and had considerable doubts as to whether he’d be chosen. His collegiate career, which ended on a high note, certainly had its share of tumultuous periods. Despite a productive two years at SMU, Gilbert did not receive an invitation to the NFL Combine. At least on some level, the questions crept in Gilbert’s mind.
With a precious few picks remaining, and no aspect of the draft remaining in his control, Gilbert turned to another subject entirely to pass the time—golf. While watching a PGA tour event, and not the NFL draft, Gilbert received the call from the Rams informing him of the team’s use of a compensatory sixth-round pick on him.
“I was kind of tired of sitting in front of the (draft), so I went in the other room and watched the Players Championship,” Gilbert said. “Obviously, I came back in when I got the call from Mr. Snead and Coach Fisher, but I was in there for a little while until I heard my name.”
Gilbert’s path to life as an NFL prospect was a circuitous one. Prior to his successful two-year run as the starter at SMU, the strong-armed Gilbert was at one time deemed the successor to Colt McCoy under center at the University of Texas. That transition wasn’t a smooth one, as Gilbert struggled during two-plus seasons with the Longhorns, before transferring to SMU, where his collegiate career took off under the tutelage of coach and offensive innovator June Jones. The move to SMU was not only beneficial on a football level for Gilbert, but also on a personal one.
“Obviously, leaving Texas was a tough situation for me, but I felt like it made me into a better player and a better person,” Gilbert said. “Getting the opportunity to play for June Jones and his offense that lets quarterbacks throw the ball around quite a bit was something that was very exciting for me and it obviously turned out to be a great experience for me at SMU.”
With the struggles of his days in Austin behind him, Gilbert became a productive player as a junior at SMU, and saw his NFL draft opportunity become a possibility as a senior last fall. He threw for 3,528 yards and 21 touchdowns to just seven interceptions in 10 games with the Mustangs.
Now a Ram, Gilbert finds himself working under a pair of veteran signal-callers in
“I did a little research on the depth chart as soon as I got taken, and I knew this would be a great opportunity,” Gilbert said. “Sam (Bradford) is a guy that I watched for six years (in the NFL and college), even when he was at Oklahoma. Shaun Hill is a guy who, anyone who does this for 12 years is doing something right. He’s someone that I’ve tried to ask a lot of questions to. I’ve got Sam on my left in the locker room and Shaun on my right. It’s great to learn from those two guys. To get out on the field and see those guys work, I feel like I’ve learned a lot already.”
Gilbert figures to gain further reps this week, as the Rams begin their organized team activities, which will run through June 20. Though he understands his current place on the team’s depth chart and has embraced his front-row seat in learning the ropes from a pair of veterans at his position, Gilbert stopped short of projecting a lengthy stay as a third-string quarterback in the NFL.
“My goal is…yeah, there are two veterans here, but that hasn’t changed my attitude,” Gilbert said. “I still want to learn as much as I can and progress as fast as I can, understanding that there is a learning process here that I have to go through. My job is to compete, work my tail off and I’ve got the advantage of working with those two guys.”