J.C. Tretter is putting the finishing touches on his resume for the most important job interview he’ll ever go through.
An Akron High School graduate, Tretter is the lone Western New Yorker among 333 NFL hopefuls who have received an invitation to this week’s Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. He’s one of just 24 players from a Football Championship Subdivision school to earn an invite after a decorated senior season at Cornell.
In just his second season on the offensive line, Tretter made the All-Ivy League first team as a left tackle, and earned second-team All-American honors on the Associated Press’ 2012 FCS team.
“I’m even more excited than you’d expect. I was invited to the Senior Bowl and I ended up getting hurt the day before I was supposed to fly out so I had to miss the game,” Tretter said. “This has just been building up for a while now, being able to finally get out there and show athletically what I have to offer. I’m extremely excited.”
Tretter broke his nose training last month, so he wasn’t able to play in the Senior Bowl, but he still attended and met with about 22 teams, by his own estimation. Scouts from 27 different NFL teams also visited the Cornell campus last season, so it’s clear there’s significant interest in the 6-foot-4, 307-pounder.
The athleticism Tretter is eager to show this week is a big reason why. In addition to being an All-Western New York honorable mention as a senior defensive lineman in 2008 for Akron, he was also a third-team All-Western New York basketball player for the Tigers.
“When I went to Cornell I was kind of recruited as a general athlete,” he said. “They gave me an option of four different positions that I could choose to move to.”
Tretter chose tight end, the position his father played in college.
“I thought it would be a good fit, especially with my basketball background,” he said. “I thought I’d be a natural at it.”
After two so-so seasons at the position, though, the Big Red had a need along the offensive line at left tackle, so Tretter started packing on the pounds before his junior year.
After weighing 235 pounds as a senior at Akron, he played tight end at 250.
“I asked my head coach and the offensive line coach, ‘what weight do you want me at this upcoming season for my junior year?’ They said ‘we want you between 275 and 280.’ I said ‘just trust me, I’ll be there. I’m not going to lose a step,’ ” Tretter said. “So I just worked out hard, increased the food intake and came in at 276.
“Actually, by the end of my career I had gotten even faster from when I was a tight end to when I put on another 55 pounds and was playing tackle.”
Tretter weighs 307 pounds now, with a goal to be 315 by training camp – when he’ll take on another new position.
“It looks as if I’ll transition again into a guard and most likely a center at the next level,” said Tretter, who at 6-4 with 32.25-inch arms is a couple of inches shorter than the ideal NFL tackle. “As you move on in your career, it’s less about what position you play and more about staying out there to keep playing the game you love.”
To get ready for the combine, Tretter has been training at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. He’s also being mentored by Hamburg native Dave Wohlabaugh, who played center for three teams during a nine-year NFL career from 1995-2003.
“He’s been kind of teaching me the nuances of coming from tackle. It’s a little different. The point of contact is much earlier than when you’re playing tackle, but you just gotta get used to it. It’s been going really well,” Tretter said.
Tretter has been projected as a fourth- or fifth-round draft pick by both the website nfldraftscout.com and CBS Sports draft analyst Rob Rang.
“J.C. Tretter is a great story,” said former Cleveland Browns General Manager Phil Savage, who’s currently a player personnel executive for the Philadelphia Eagles. “He’s got excellent feet. He’s a very good athlete.”
“I think that’s the thing that makes me stand out is my feet, both pass protection and run-blocking wise,” Tretter said. “As the game kind of evolves and turns into more of a pass-oriented game, you’re going to need the linemen who are able to work well in space. The defensive line is becoming more and more of just freakish athletes, so every team’s going to need guys who can equal that. I think the athletic background is huge and that’s really put me on the radar.”
Tretter and the rest of the offensive linemen work out at the combine Saturday.
Scouts will likely be paying particular attention to Tretter’s performance on the bench press, as his strength has been mentioned as a concern by both Savage and Rang, whose scouting report reads in part that Tretter “lacks the strength and use of leverage to anchor against NFL defensive tackles.”
Coming from Cornell, Tretter will have to answer questions about the level of competition he faced. Missing the Senior Bowl because of injury was a setback in that regard, leaving the combine and Cornell’s pro day March 8 as opportunities to impress would-be employers.
“It’s a unique experience because you’re a track athlete now and not as much a football player. Really, it’s just showing what athleticism you have to offer,” Tretter said of the combine. “You’ll be compared to everybody else on an equal playing field.”
Tretter, who turned 22 last week, is taking online classes while he trains in Florida as he works his way toward graduation in May with a bachelor’s degree in industrial labor relations. He carries a 3.4 grade-point average.
“My dad was always the athletic one, and my mom was the academic. You put those two together and you can see why I ended up at a place like Cornell to play football,” Tretter said. “It’s been a long journey, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. I wouldn’t change all the steps I’ve taken, going from quarterback to tight end to offensive line. It kind of makes it a good story and it’s really driven me to get better every day.”
Tretter met twice with the Buffalo Bills at the Senior Bowl. While it’s early in the process, he’s imagined what it would be like to have his hometown team call his name on draft day.
“That’d be great. You always want to stay close to home,” Tretter said. “My parents [Joe and Cynthia] would be able to go to every game. They never missed a game, home or away, when I was at Cornell, so it’d be great to keep that streak going.”