MOBILE, Ala. — Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden is the resident senior citizen at this week's Senior Bowl.
Weeden might end up as the Senior Bowl's biggest riser — and winner — when it comes to eventual NFL draft standing.
Weeden passes the eye test, the personality test, the arm strength test and has a smooth, NFL-ready release, even if he does throw a football a little like the minor league pitcher he used to be. That brings us to the next test, the one that reveals he's 28 and will be 29 a month or so into his first NFL season.
If he can play at a high level in the NFL — and there's reason to think he can — his age will be just another number, one that's thrown in with the numbers that say he measured here at 6-foot-3 and 219 pounds, that he completed more than 72 percent of his passes and threw 37 touchdowns in helping Oklahoma State to a 12-1 record last fall. Those numbers add up to Weeden being the best NFL prospect of the six quarterbacks being watched by the eyes of the NFL at the Senior Bowl this week.
A guy Weeden's age is supposed to drink a lot of water, and factoring how his age might affect his draft status comes down to a simple question: Is the glass hall-full or half-empty?
"I've talked to a lot of teams already and they've put out the vibe that my age isn't really an issue," Weeden said Monday. "My body is fresh. I haven't been hit a lot. I think my age is more a positive than it is a negative and I think teams look at it that way.
"I am getting tired of reading or hearing that I'm a 28-year-old quarterback. I'm a quarterback. I'm getting to the point now that I've heard it so many times I'm just having fun with it. My line is 'I can change a lot of things, I can get better with my footwork, but I can't change adversity.' I can't get any younger."
Weeden's goal is to use his experiences and his arm to make an NFL team better. Though it's still early in the draft process, most projections have quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Heisman winner Robert Griffin III being drafted in the first five picks and possibly in the top two. Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill had to withdraw from the Senior Bowl due to injury, and he only played quarterback for a season and a half in college. Where he might be picked — and if he's really a better prospect than Weeden — remains to be seen.
Weeden can use this week to prove that he's a polished product, that his age and maturity really are pluses and that he's a good bet to be able to help some NFL team sooner rather than later.
"I think I can play right away, I really do," Weeden said. "I don't think I'd have to play right away. I don't want to sit for five years like some guys do, but I definitely think I can bring a lot to a team. I bring plenty of positives.
"One of the things about being my age is I understand reality. I understand the business, I know how it works. Absolutely I can play right away, but there's no guarantee I'll be a starter. I know how it all works."
How Weeden got here dates back 10 years, when he was drafted in the second round of the 2002 Major League Baseball draft out of high school by the New York Yankees. He had been committed to play both sports at Oklahoma State, but he couldn't pass up the signing bonus and the chance to chase his dream of playing professional baseball.
He was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, ended up in the Rule 5 draft and was selected by the Kansas City Royals and gave up a lot of home runs in the meantime. He never got too far from football, serving as a volunteer football coach at his high school alma mater for two seasons while playing baseball, and when it was clear his baseball dreams were coming to an end Weeden informed the Royals he was headed back to college and to football before they released him.
His initial baseball contract included a clause that the Yankees would pay for his college, and he joined Oklahoma State's football team as a walk-on in 2007. He started the last two years, directing a high-octane spread offense in which he threw for more than 9,000 yards and threw a bunch of passes to this draft's consensus top receiver, Justin Blackmon.
The NFL is a different business, and he'll have to learn to operate a different offense. But Weeden thinks those long minor league baseball bus rides and two years of major college, high-pressure football give him an edge in preparation for football's highest level.
"Baseball is a game of (individual) failure, and I think at the quarterback position everybody makes mistakes," Weeden said. "Those mistakes get magnified more so than mistakes made by guys at other positions. That's just the nature of it.
“I think my experience in baseball is huge. I gave up a lot of home runs and I'm fortunate I haven't thrown a ton of interceptions, but they're the same deal. You have to shrug it off and get to the next throw. I think I'm really good at that."
If he's good this week and over the next eight or so weeks on the pre-draft circuit, he'll become a coveted prospect in addition to an interesting one. Luck and Griffin are going to get the keys to franchises. Green Bay’s Matt Flynn, at age 26, is either going to hit free agency or be franchised and traded. Peyton Manning, who's officially older than Weeden, could be available as well.
The Great Quarterback Race, 2012 edition, is about to begin. Expect Weeden to very much be a part of it.
"I haven't got a feel yet for where I'll be drafted," Weeden said. "I think my skill set is comparable to that of a lot of guys in the NFL. I think I have what it takes. I have to continue to get better, keep progressing and just be ready.
“As far as what round I get picked, it doesn't matter. You have to get a chance to play first. Wherever you get drafted you still have to make a roster and when games start, nobody asks where you got drafted. You either produce or you don't."