Gordon eager to sell his skills

Former KU star hopes his savvy shines through at NFL Combine

It’s perhaps a bit unfair to some degree, but Charles Gordon certainly had to have some idea what he was up against when declaring for the NFL Draft last month – a belief that on-field savvy can be taught if a prospect has the unteachables taken care of.

Gordon, a former Kansas University football standout, has a few months to impress scouts enough to take him as early as possible in the draft, which starts April 29 in New York.

His first crack at NFL franchises’ radar screens will be this weekend at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis – a mental and physical testing center lasting over several days with every important eye looking on.

“There’s a little nervousness,” said Gordon, who will join KU teammate Charlton Keith at the Combine. “It’s the biggest interview of my life. But I’m confident and I’m ready.”

The problem? Gordon’s greatest strengths won’t get tested extensively – intangibles, instincts and an unmatched ability to play football.

Instead, defensive backs with good size and great jets to go with it will be center stage this weekend. Gordon will have to prove his athletic worth.

“I think so much of the Combine and all those things is based on speed,” KU defensive coordinator Bill Young said. “I’ve seen a lot of guys who couldn’t play football that went in there and tested well. They got drafted extremely high.”

Gordon’s strengths aren’t the same, as both Young and Gordon’s agent, Kenny Zuckerman, agree on.

“He’s not a track guy playing football,” Zuckerman said. “He’s a football player.”

To improve on what scouts will be analyzing, Gordon has spent the last month in Tempe, Ariz., training at Athletes’ Performance Institute. There, Gordon has worked under former KU defensive back Kwamie Lassiter and alongside NFL prospects Tye Hill of Clemson, Jimmy Williams of Virginia Tech and Michael Huff of Texas in getting physically ready for the NFL.

Gordon works out several hours a day, and along with the physical conditioning, API offers a nutritional and supplemental program, rehabilitation and even massages on-site.

“He’s really been doing a lot of defensive back work, which he didn’t do much of this year,” Zuckerman said. “He’s also still catching the ball.”

Zuckerman said most teams are interested in putting Gordon in the defensive secondary, though it’s not exclusive to that.

“He’s getting so much interest because of his versatility,” Zuckerman said. “In this day and age with the salary cap being such an issue, a guy like him – a shut-down corner who can really open up a game on special teams and make something happen on offense, whether catching the ball or as a decoy : teams are just really intrigued by him.”

Kansas used him at all three since 2003. In three years in Lawrence, Gordon amassed 1,232 receiving yards on 106 catches, 98 tackles and nine interceptions on defense and 999 punt-return yards on 96 returns on special teams. He even has 50 passing yards and 44 rushing yards.

Gordon’s versatility had him popping up all over All-Big 12 teams. He even pondered playing baseball at KU, before deciding against it to focus on football and his NFL aspirations.

As it turned out, his professional hopes came calling a year earlier than they had to. He skipped his senior season and declared for the Draft last month.

“That’s probably the biggest decision I’ve had to make,” Gordon said. “It was tough, but I felt it was time and the family did (too). It just was the decision I had to make.”

He made it, but he’s not out of the woods, yet. Gordon’s turn at the Combine starts Saturday, and he’ll be back in Lawrence for KU’s Pro Day next month.

From there, scouts will have to comb through several defensive-back prospects – Williams, Huff, Hill, Southern Cal’s Darnell Bing, Georgia’s DeMario Minter – to find out where Gordon belongs in the NFL.

“I feel like I’m up there with them,” Gordon said. “I know I can play with them. Now, it’s just going to the Combine and proving it to everyone.”