The offensive tackle from Arkansas-Pine Bluff played in two All-Star games, tore through the NFL Combine, visited 10 NFL teams and worked out for seven. With the NFL Draft starting Thursday, the 6-foot-5, 306-pound offensive tackle is out of chances to prove himself. Upon reflection, he thinks he did a pretty good job.
“As of right now, I’m relaxed,” Armstead said by phone Tuesday afternoon as he made his drive home to Cahokia, Ill. “I’m blessed. I’m fortunate enough to be in a position where I pretty much know I’m going to be drafted.”
Predicting where, however, is more complicated for guys like Armstead. Not necessarily because of his size or skill (He ran a sizzling 4.71 second 40-yard dash at the combine), but due to where he played college ball. Guys from small schools have to make bigger jumps to get into the league. They’re riskier, only worth the gamble if they’ve shown they belong.
“A lot of folks didn’t know Pine Bluff was in Arkansas,” Antwyne Golliday, Armstead’s former football coach at Cahokia High School, said. “When he ran that 40 in the combine, it woke a lot of folks up.”
That sole sprint put Armstead on a lot of peoples’ radar, but his work started much earlier, as soon as his final season at Arkansas-Pine Bluff came to its end. Three times, he received first-team Southwestern Athletic Conference honors for football. Eight times, he won track and field conference titles for his ability to heave a shot put. Still, he knew that wouldn’t be enough.
“It was a humbling experience, going to a smaller school,” Armstead said. “I thought I was a pretty good player in high school, and I thought I would be going to a big school. I always had that goal. Going to Pine Bluff, it’s definitely a longer road.”
A common belief is that Armstead shunned football offers from Division I schools in order to go to Pine Bluff, a program that would let him play football as well as participate in track and field. That’s not the entire story, however. Armstead held football-only offers from major programs as a high schooler. He would have taken one of them, too. But problems with the NCAA Clearinghouse slowed him down. As a result, his academic qualification came later than expected. By then, big schools had moved on.
“I really wanted to go to Missouri,” he said. “I was being recruited by Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State and some Illinois schools.”
Arkansas-Pine Bluff stuck around. The fit made sense. It was Golliday’s alma mater. The coach of the Golden Lions, Monte Coleman, is a former NFL linebacker who won three Super Bowls with the Washington Redskins. Armstead accepted the scholarship and had success. Four years later, he was a draft-caliber lineman who help or hurt is stock in the crucial months that followed the end of his college career.
First came two All-Star games, the only chances Armstead would have to showcase his talent against top-tier competition like South Carolina’s defensive end Devin Taylor and UCLA’s defensive end and tackle Datone Jones. Armstead held his own.
“I knew it was do or die for me,” he said. “I had heard things about the level of the competition, and whether I would be able to sustain against bigger-school guys. I knew I could do it. I just had to go out there and peform.”
Later came the combine that turned everyone’s head. In addition to the hard-to-believe 40-yard dash, he bench pressed 225 pounds 31 times and turned in a vertical jump of 34.5 inches. Teams noticed.
While Armstead declined to disclose who he has visited and worked out for, Golliday mentioned a few teams have been in touch. They include the Green Bay Packers, the Oakland Raiders and the St. Louis Rams — a team that sent its director of security to Cahokia on Monday morning to meet with Golliday. The Rams representative wanted to know about Armstead’s background. Golliday had only good things to say.
“He’s going to be a sleeper now,” Golliday said. “They’re going to get their money’s worth out of him. Because he’s hungry.”
Soon, the results of Armstead’s work will be determined. Who will take him, and when?
“I have a general thought about where I will go,” he said. “But, it’s kind of up for grabs. I was talking to my agent. He said the sky is the limit, but it just depends on the day and the luck of the draw.”
Want to track other local talent in the NFL Draft?
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19. New York Giants:Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri 44. Carolina: Terron Armstead, OT, Arkansas Pine-Bluff 98 Jacksonville – Akeem Spence, DT, Illinois 106 New York Jets – Zavier Gooden, LB, Missouri 124 Houston – Michael Buchanan, DE, Illinois 125 Denver – Terry Hawthorne, CB, Illinois 143 Buffalo – Hugh Thornton, OG, Illinois 149 St. Louis – David Bass, LB, Missouri Western State 76 San Diego – Lavar Edwards, DE, LSU 181 Tampa Bay – Kip Edwards, CB, Missouri 242 Seattle (Comp) – Rashaan Melvin, CB, Northern Illinois