Player Profile #73 – OL Will Rackley

Over the long history of the NFL Draft, teams have never made a stop in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and Lehigh University an annual part of their travels. But they were all there during the 2010 season to see big offensive lineman Will Rackley.

There’s no question Rackley will be selected, as he’s one of the top small college players in this year’s draft prospects. Only one Lehigh player has been taken higher than the fifth round and that was QB Kim McQuilken, who went in the third round in 1974. In the last 31 drafts, only one Mountain Hawk has been drafted – DE Rich Owens in the fifth round of the 1995 Draft by Washington.

“I’m here to prove that guys can jump from I-AA to the pros,” Rackley said. “Playing football is playing football. It doesn’t matter where you’re from; it matters how you play.”

Here’s his story.

FAMILY AFFAIRS

William Rackley Jr.

Born – unavailable.

Family – Parents are William and Wanda Rackley. He’s the baby of their five children – Volnerius, Yolanda, Brandon and Aaron. He spent his childhood growing up in North Carolina, Virginia and then later in Georgia. Oldest brother Volnerius is an actor. Second brother Brandon is a music producer working out of Atlanta. “I just come from an artsy family,” Rackley said.

BODY OF WORK

  • Height – 6-feet, 3¼ inches.
  • Weight – 309 pounds.
  • Arm – 33½ inches.
  • Hand – 10¾ inches.
  • 40-yard dash – 5.39 seconds.
  • 20-yard dash – 3.08 seconds.
  • 10-yard dash – 1.86 seconds.
  • Bench press – 29 repetitions at 225 pounds.
  • Vertical jump – 23½ inches.
  • Broad jump – 8-feet, 3 inches.

HIGH SCHOOL

Rackley graduated with the class of 2007 from Riverdale High School in Riverdale, Georgia, part of the Clayton County School System. Riverdale is a southern suburb of Atlanta.

As a senior, he was named first team All-Henry/Clayton County as an offensive lineman and second team as a defensive lineman. The Raiders played a triple-option offense. Rackley began his senior season at 6-2, 260 pounds.

FOOTBALL

2006 – In his senior year, Riverdale finished 6-4.

2005 – The Raiders were 8-3 in Rackley’s junior season.

2004 – He got some playing time with the Riverdale varsity that went 6-5 on the season.

RECRUITING

The only major program that showed any interest in Rackley was Georgia Tech. Patriot League teams like Lehigh, Lafayette and Colgate were the schools most interested and he ended up committing to Lehigh, a school that does not give athletic scholarships. Tuition money is need-based.

COLLEGE

Rackley majored in Design Arts at Lehigh and was taking a full schedule of 16 credits in the spring semester. If all that works out, he’ll leave in May with his degree. Several times during his four years he’s received All-Patriot League honors.

In February, he was honored with a first place in a photography contest sponsored by the university. Rackley’s images of the long shuttered Bethlehem Steel works won top honors. One judge said, “The sepia color combined with the through-the-weeds view gave the picture a historical feel that gripped the viewer’s attention.”

On the football field, he finished up his career with 40 consecutive starts and was named to the FCS All-America first-team offense by the Associated Press. He was selected for three consecutive years (2008-10) to the first-team offense in the Patriot League.

2010 – (Offensive captain) he started all 13 games at LT for the 10-3 Mountain Hawks who won the Patriot League Championship and played in the FCS playoffs. Lehigh beat Northern Iowa 14-7 in the first round, before losing a second-round game to Delaware 42-20.

2009 – Rackley earned first-team Patriot League honors, starting 11 games at LT for the 4-7 Hawks.

2008 – He started all 11 games at LT as Lehigh finished the season 5-6.

2007 – In his freshman season, he became the starter at RG midway through the season, opening the final five games, and playing in as Lehigh finished 5-6 on the season.

EVALUATION FOR PRO FOOTBALL

Strengths – Outstanding run blocker who can move to the second level and dominate defenses. May be best run blocker in this year’s draft. The legend is that he did not allow a sack at Lehigh. If true, that’s very impressive even at a smaller college level. Big physically and combines it with strength, scouts think he could actually add some weight. He’s an intelligent player who is fundamentally sound in the use of his hands. That’s where he can use his upper body strength to nullify a defender. Rackley is aggressive and plays like he enjoys the contact on the field; he blocks until the whistle, and sometimes longer.

Weaknesses – Although he’s powerful, he does not play with explosion. He does not fire out of his stance and sometimes he gets doesn’t bend his knees. That leaves him playing too upright and that’s something FCS defenders can’t take advantage of, but guys in the pros will eat his lunch. He does not have the lateral movement to consistently get to the outer edge and stop speed pass rushers.

Analysis – Rackley’s lack of lateral quickness and foot speed will have him moving from LT to inside, probably LG. In post-season action, he showed he can handle that move inside. There’s concern with some teams about his lack of experience against top defenses and pass rushers. His college tape, his personality and his work ethic are indications he will play in the NFL. How soon or how fast is the question.

WHAT THE SCOUTS SAY

An AFC scout said – “I just can’t see it. He dominated the Patriot League, but blocking a guy out of Colgate isn’t the same as blocking a guy out of Alabama, Florida or LSU. I don’t see the foot quickness he’s going to need.”

An NFC scout said – “He’s a good small college player, but I’m not sure he’ll make the transition. He’ll need time to develop.”

WHAT HE SAYS

“I think I understand defenses pretty well. I think I have pretty good feet. But I think what I need to work on most is my timing and strike and hand placement in the pass game. And in the run game just getting to the second and third level and making sure my hands are in the right place, and finishing those guys off.”

“I’ve always been an art-type of guy. I’ve always been able to draw, and I’ve been into creative- based things.”

“I wasn’t too highly recruited coming from a triple-option team, but fortunately I had good academics out of high school. I was getting recruited by a lot of Patriot League schools. I took my visit to Lehigh and loved the atmosphere, loved the academic tradition, loved the football tradition, so it was a good fit.”

WHAT OTHERS SAY ABOUT HIM

Lehigh offensive line coach Brett Sawyer – “He plays for a love of the game and his teammates. He’s everything you want from a player. He gives 110 percent.”

DOES HE FIT WITH THE CHIEFS?

Not really. Pioli/Haley have not spent much draft cash selecting guys from small colleges, especially one that plays in the Patriot League. His captain status, intelligence, versatility and durability are all desirable elements. If Rackley is still around say in the fifth or sixth round, he might pop on the radar screen.

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