By Brad Cone, TexasHSFootball Contributing Writer
Every American boy who’s ever strapped on a pair of shoulder pads has dreamed of one day getting a chance to play at the most elite of all levels: the National Football League.
But the numbers don’t lie.
For every kid who played in junior high, there are three who didn’t make it past youth league. For every youngster who played on his high school freshman and JV teams, there is another whose highest level was junior high. For every varsity player there are two who didn’t make it past the underclass teams. For every high school starter, there is another who never did. For every All-District player, there are dozens who were not.
The pyramid keeps climbing, narrowing, layer after layer, with fewer slots at every level.
For every collegiate player, there are hundreds of high schoolers who were not. And of the thousands of college football players nationwide, only a few dozen are invited to market their skills for NFL scouts at the annual combines.
For Baylor’s Spencer Drango, that chance has come.
The Bears’ two-time All Big-XII and two-time All-American left tackle has spent five years in Waco, protecting the blind sides of Nick Florence, Bryce Petty and Jarrett Stidham, with scouts salivating over his size, strength, agility, and innate intelligence.
All that is about to pay off. Drango has an invitation to the annual NFL combine (Friday, Feb. 26 through Monday, Feb. 29) in Indianapolis.
Compared to many who will work this weekend, his prospects are good: nearly every draft-ranking source proclaims him a first- or second-round pick. Not only will Spencer get to continue to play the game he loves, but he’ll not have to worry much about paying the bills, either.
As the play-by-play voice of Drango’s high school football team (Cedar Park) for K-MAC Sports, I got to know Spencer while he played for Chris Ross (who is now the head coach at Prosper), running an offense lead by OC Carl Abseck – who, ironically, is now the head coach of the state champion Timberwolves.
“Spencer Drango is the best offensive lineman in the history of Cedar Park High School and one of the best all-around young men I have had the pleasure of coaching in my 19 years in the profession,” said Asbeck, who was reached at his office. “(Spencer is) humble, passionate, a leader; and, an example to his teammates, classmates. (He is) a great representative of our community.”
These days, a high school offensive lineman measures himself by “pancake” blocks the same way a quarterback might measure himself by touchdown passes. A good linesman might have 15 to 20 pancakes in a season. An All-District type might have more than two dozen. During his 14-game senior season at Cedar Park, Spencer Drango had roughly 100 pancakes.
It was amazing to watch him rumble around the end leading a sweep for the Timberwolves. His inevitable collisions with defenders seemed unfair, like an overloaded cement mixer slamming into a baby gazelle. If the play went through Spencer, it was going to work.
Proving he’s an athlete and not just a football player, Drango played center for CPHS basketball coach Blake Brown and in 2011 helped lead his team all the way to the Class 4A state tournament at the Erwin Center – the “Final Four” of Texas high school basketball.
His footwork was astonishingly quick. He was a great rebounder and defender. That footwork pays off while playing offensive line, too, and no doubt was the reason Texas head coach Mack Brown came to Cedar Park to watch Spencer play hoops one night. But Brown came late to the recruiting race for Drango, who committed to Art Briles at Baylor.
In Waco, Drango caught the eye not just of the Big XII press, but of the nation, winning All-American honors in 2014 and 2015. His blocking was so superb that opposing defensive coordinators had to alter how they engineered their pass rush.
A sample of that intelligence: by his final football season with the Bears, he’d already obtained his undergraduate degree and was working on his master’s degree.
For everyone who has known Spencer Drango along the way (both at Cedar Park and at Baylor), his story is confirmation everything your parents, teachers, and coaches have told you about hard work and dedication to both athletics and academics: it does, indeed, pay off.
Spencer has set himself up for success either way – in the NFL or in business with his finance degree. Nothing but exciting times lay ahead for this former Timberwolf and former Bear.
For those participating in this weekend’s combines, the pyramid narrows yet again, as only a certain percentage of those young men will ever play a down in the NFL.
Bet on Spencer Drango to be one of those men.
Brad Cone has been calling Cedar Park football and baseball for K-MAC Sports since 2008. Brad, a Cedar Park resident with his family, is the athletics historian for Cedar Park High School and writes for several organizations in the Austin area.