By Daniel Huss
Wispy and lanky aren’t words one would use to describe someone employed by the NFL. Attach those words to a high school football player and he’d hide in shame.
As a sophomore, Michael Jordan was cut from his varsity basketball team. He turned out OK.
Eden Prairie’s Gannon Sinclair can one up Jordan, two actually.
Gannon grew up playing Eden Prairie youth football, quarterback mostly.
In high school he switched positions, thinking his future was at tight end. Problem was, Sinclair’s body wasn’t ready to play tight end. As a junior, he was 6-4, 150-160. Wispy wasn’t only accurate, it might have been generous.
Last week, he inked his name to a contract with the Arizona Cardinals. The undrafted free agent picked the Cardinals over the Dallas Cowboys and San Diego Chargers. Yes, he had options.
“I knew the opportunity would be there,” he said, while adding that an undrafted free agent can sometimes find a better fit than someone picked in the later rounds of the NFL Draft.
Stop, just stop.
How does a 6-4, 160-pound tight end sign with an NFL team? He doesn’t.
Good thing Sinclair isn’t 160 pounds anymore. Today, he stands 6-7, 270 and answers to “sir.”
“I didn’t get to play in high school,” he said, “I was underdeveloped.”
He was small, but wouldn’t stay that way. He weighed 160 as a junior, 210 as a senior. Still, he wasn’t much of a football player. He didn’t get the reps.
“I was a late developer,” he said, “meaning I had to work at it a little harder than the average player.”
Still, he had that passion, that desire.
If someone asked what he wanted to do when he grew up, Sinclair would answer, “Play football.”
“Because I didn’t have a lot of options, I thought I’d play for a Division III school and then transfer to a bigger school,” he said, “but someone told me that if I went to junior college, I wouldn’t have to sit out when I transferred.”
Heeding that advice, Sinclair enrolled at North Dakota College of Science. He wasn’t an overnight sensation. He was, however, becoming a football player. As a sophomore, he was an ICCAC second team All-Conference pick and first-team All-Academic selection. He caught 16 passes for 234 yards and two touchdowns.
Most importantly, Sinclair found that his body type and skill set fit with the tight end-Y position as opposed to an H-back.
“A Y lines up on the line of scrimmage and plays with his hand on the ground,” said Sinclair, “An H-back typically lines up off the line of scrimmage. A prototypical Y might be 6-6, 265, an H, 6-3, 6-4, 240.”
Both can block, both can protect and both can catch passes.
But the Y is a rarer breed.
“You don’t see a lot of Ys in the read- option and spread offenses a lot of colleges run,” adds Sinclair.
Sin cl air would hope to transfer to a Division I school following his second year of junior college. He wound up at Division I-AA Missouri State University. It was the perfect fit.
He played in 12 games and started in eight as a junior. He even earned CFPA National Tight End of the Week honors, catching five passes for 68 yards and two touchdowns in a game against Southern Illinois.
As a senior starter, he caught 18 passes and a team-high seven touchdowns. It’s football jargon, but he graded out at 85 percent overall for the season with three games of 10 knockdowns or more.
This kid no one knew about was making a name for himself.
Although he’s only one semester away from earning a degree in exercise and movement science, Sinclair begged out of school early to prepare for the NFL.
He’s been working with Bill Welle, a trainer of several NFL players, including the Cardinals’ Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd.
Does he know his new teammates?
“I’ve seen them enough where I won’t be star struck,” said Sinclair.
To think, five years ago he was a back up to a back up at Eden Prairie High School.
“I wished I would have red-shirted,” he said. “I thought I might when I got to Missouri, but coach said I’d be starting and playing a lot.”
Sinclair left for Arizona last Thursday.
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