King David Dunlap V, a massive offensive tackle from Auburn University, began his senior year with the Tigers as the equivalent of college football royalty - a preseason all-American and a likely first-round pick in the next NFL draft.

By the end of the season, however, not only was Dunlap no longer in the castle, he also was trying to tread water in the moat.

Related stories

"It was one thing after the other, and it just kept going," Dunlap said of his disastrous final season of college ball. "You've got to take it, roll with it, and move past it. Now, I'm going to get a new career going in the NFL."

Perhaps he will, and as Dunlap cruises the practice field at rookie camp and strides in a crowded locker room that seems even more cramped when he enters, there is no doubting he has some tools.

Dunlap, the son of a former NFL defensive end and a mother who was a college track star, is an imposing 6-foot-81/4 and 311 pounds. On Auburn's pro day, he bench-pressed 225 pounds 20 times, ran a credible 5.0 in the 40-yard dash - in size-18 shoes - and turned in a very high score on the Wonderlic Personnel Test that NFL teams use as a gauge of intelligence and adaptability.

Despite all that, Dunlap fell like a large, round stone through the draft. Thirty-five offensive linemen had been taken when the Eagles used the 230th overall pick, the 23d pick of the seventh round, to select him.

"He's a huge man," coach Andy Reid said at the time, staying on safe ground. "Things didn't work out for him [in the end at Auburn], but we look forward to seeing if a little change of scenery doesn't help."

It is a small risk for a potentially large reward. Starting tackles William Thomas and Jon Runyan will turn 34 and 35, respectively, this coming season. There are tentative internal plans to eventually move Shawn Andrews or Todd Herremans to tackle. It is possible that Winston Justice can develop into a decent NFL player. Beyond that, all of which is pretty sketchy, the position could use help. Dunlap would like to be that help.

"I definitely have a lot of motivation, going where I did in the draft after being highly touted coming into the season," Dunlap said. "It makes me work harder to prove that I can play, because there are a lot of doubters who think I can't play in the league. I want to prove I can."

The doubting started quickly last season when Dunlap injured his elbow early on and was replaced in the starting lineup by a freshman. The injury came just after Dunlap was served with a misdemeanor warrant for failing to pay a speeding ticket, and not long after he showed up for the season in less than excellent shape.

Dunlap got back into the starting lineup when the freshman suffered an injury, but lasted only three more games in that position before being replaced again. He finished the year with a sprained ankle that kept him out of Auburn's season-ending bowl appearance.

The rap on Dunlap was that he didn't make enough use of his talent. A predraft analysis posted on NFL.com was harsh, mentioning what it thought was a "soft and fleshy" body type.

Coming from a family of successful athletes - his sister plays basketball and competes in track and field at Kentucky - Dunlap is competitive, and he definitely doesn't like the things that have been said. But he also understands the process.

"It comes down to performing on the field, and I didn't get it done," he said.

Dunlap plans to change that perception, honing his technique under offensive-line coach Juan Castillo, learning behind Thomas and Runyan, and waiting his turn.

"It's a great opportunity to play behind them," he said. "They're not going to play forever. It would be nice if they could. But they are getting a little older. Maybe I can get a couple of years behind them and then step in and be as good as they were."

That is a lot to hope for, even for a first-round pick. For a seventh-round pick, it will be as difficult as swimming the moat and climbing the castle walls. Being 6-8 and 311 pounds gives an offensive tackle a nice head start, though.

"I'm just trying to take in as much as I can," Dunlap said this week. "Learning the plays, the playbook. Everything is about learning."

What Dunlap learned in college is that being big can often just make you a big target. He got a graduate-level education in that. In the NFL, he's learning that almost everyone is big and talented.

Education is a great thing, and King David Dunlap V hopes to show that it's never too late to learn.

See video from the second day of Eagles minicamp yesterday at http://go.philly.com/sports.

Contact columnist Bob Ford
at 215-854-5842 or bford@phillynews.com. Read
his recent work at http://go.philly.com/bobford.