In the history of the NFL Draft's modern era, which spans over six decades, there have been only five quarterbacks from FCS programs selected in the first round. But at some point on Thursday night, Trey Lance will join the exclusive group as its sixth member.
NFL front offices and mock draft analysts would be hard-pressed to find a more compelling or unique prospect in this year's class than Lance. Not only did he start at quarterback for North Dakota State -- which doesn't face college football's elite competition -- but he also played just 19 total games across three collegiate seasons, and saw the field only once in 2020 due to the pandemic.
Lance's resume is unconventional, as is his body of work at the college level. Yet, the 6-foot-4, 226-pound atypical redshirt sophomore has found himself among the top-tier prospects at his position, and there's a strong possibility he's off the board within the first 10 picks.
"For me, at this point, there's really no nerves," Lance told CBS Sports Radio's The DA Show on Tuesday. "I feel like I've done everything I possibly can to put myself in a good position. So, at this point, I'm just excited to see which team gives me the opportunity and wants me in their organization."
Lance, who's currently the No. 10 overall prospect on Pro Football Focus' NFL Draft Big Board and the fourth-best quarterback, racked up 4,272 yards of total offense with 30 passing touchdowns and 18 rushing scores in 19 games at North Dakota State. He also set an NCAA record for passing attempts without an interception (287) back in 2019, and during the same season, he was named the top FCS freshman and top FCS player.
While the San Francisco 49ers could select Lance with the No. 3 overall pick, there's a growing belief that the New England Patriots -- currently positioned at No. 15 -- are also a potential landing spot for him. If the Patriots do trade up for Lance, and anoint him as their next franchise quarterback, it won't be easy for Lance to fill the enormous shoes of Tom Brady.
But the 20-year-old seems up to the challenge, and believes he has some idea of what the experience could resemble.
"I imagine [succeeding Brady] would feel a lot like trying to follow Easton Stick, who was the winningest quarterback [at North Dakota State]. He won 49 games in his college career," Lance said. "But, wherever I'm at, there's great quarterbacks everywhere across the league right now. So, wherever I'm at, I'm going to come in and obviously learn as much as I possibly can from him, compete for that spot, and try to do whatever I can to fulfill my role and help the team out."
Lance has also received advice from North Dakota State alum and former first-round quarterback Carson Wentz on how to ignore the outside noise about his inexperience and the small-school stigma.
"His biggest thing for me has just been, stay true to who I am, and be me," Lance said. "He's also, obviously, explained the business of the NFL, and I've learned a ton from him -- not only football, but also just how to handle it. And obviously, being in Philly and his situation, he's learned a ton about it, and I think he's handled it in the right way. He's just a great role model, mentor for me, and I'm going to continue to bounce ideas and learn as much as I possible can from him...
"For me, making this decision to come out [and enter the NFL Draft] was kind of the belief in myself... The biggest thing for people who don't think that it's possible to go from the FCS to the NFL and have success right away, Carson Wentz is the best example. He came out and played as well as he did his rookie year and his first couple years in the league, and I don't think there's too many guys that think that's possible, coming from the FCS.
"But when you really look at it and see how well Carson played -- you know, about to be an MVP -- after coming from FCS football, I think that can help out that question and that doubt."
The first round of the NFL Draft will begin on Thursday, April 29 at 8 p.m. ET in Cleveland.
The entire conversation between Lance and DA can be accessed in the video and audio players above.