Justin Gilbert got an up close look at what it takes to play in the NFL on Thursday.
While on a pre-draft visit with the Lions -- one of their allotted 30 -- Gilbert took in a portion of the team’s third and final voluntary minicamp practice.
“It was great to finally get a feel for an NFL practice live in person. It was a good experience for me,” Gilbert told detroitlions.com.
Gilbert wishes he could have taken part in practice, though.
“As soon as I walked through those glass doors I was ready,” he laughed. “I wish I had some cleats on so I could have gotten out there.”
The 6-foot, 202-pound Gilbert is considered by many to be the best cornerback available in next month’s NFL Draft, and he’s been linked to the Lions in a number of prominent Mock Drafts.
A second team All-American and first team All-Big 12 performer, Gilbert was a Jim Thorpe Award (best defensive back) finalist last season and tied for third in Division 1 college football with seven interceptions. He returned two of those interceptions for touchdowns.
The Lions are looking for playmakers to add to their secondary and Gilbert is a highly coveted all-around corner who doubles as a good return man.
“I think that’s a big addition to my game,” Gilbert said of returning kicks. “It might put me above a couple other people in the draft, you never know. It all depends on what each team needs.”
Gilbert ran a 4.37 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine and had a career kickoff return average of 26.3 yards with six touchdowns.
He compares himself to the Cardinals’ Patrick Peterson, who entered the league in 2011 as a dual-threat cornerback and return man.
The Lions have selected four cornerbacks in the past two drafts, but new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin is a big beliver in stocking up on cornerbacks.
“My feeling is this. In the NFL, you can’t have enough corners,” Austin said in his very first press conference after being hired by the Lions. “We had three pretty good corners (in Baltimore) last year and we had our work cut out for us. So, I think that obviously, that would probably be an area that we would want to make sure we strengthen up.”