The recent NFL draft wasn't the most memorable experience for Dennis Landolt, but the Penn State offensive tackle and former Inquirer first-team all-South Jersey selection from Holy Cross got over things pretty quickly.
Actually, he had no choice. After not being drafted last weekend, Landolt signed a free-agent contract with the New York Giants. He concedes that there will be some incentive to prove that he should indeed have been selected, but that thought doesn't consume him.
"The thing I have to focus on with the Giants is that I have a good shot to make the team," Landolt said by telephone. "In the long run, if you play a few years in the NFL, it doesn't matter where you were selected."
Still, the question that begs to be asked is what does a player have to do to be drafted?
It's not as if Landolt performed in a small-school vacuum.
Landolt, named to The Inquirer's all-decade all-South Jersey football team, was a third-team AP All-American this past season at left tackle. He was also a first team All-Big Ten choice by the coaches, and started 39 consecutive games. Simply put, the 6-foot-41/2, 310-pounder was dominant while performing at the highest level of college competition.
"I was very surprised that Dennis wasn't drafted," said Penn State assistant coach Bill Kenney, who coaches the offensive tackles and tight ends. "He was a three-year starter, never missed a practice or game, and was pass-protecting against some of the best ends in the country, including players on our team."
Landolt is too smart to get bogged down with resentment, so for him, the draft is history. Then again, one of the enduring qualities about Landolt besides his toughness and dedication is his intelligence.
While many scholarship players don't take advantage of their free education and earn a degree, Landolt, a fifth-year senior, pocketed two.
He earned a degree in supply chain and information systems in August, and a degree in economics in December. From the moment he stepped on the Penn State campus, Landolt was intent on making the most of his educational opportunity.
"No matter how good you are out of high school, there is a good chance you won't get to the NFL," he said. "And even if you do, the average career is something like three years."
Landolt understands firsthand how short an NFL career can be. His brother Kevin, also a star at Holy Cross, was a fourth-round draft choice of Jacksonville in 1999, and played one NFL season. Fame in the NFL can be fleeting.
"I talked to Kevin, and he told me what to expect in minicamp," Dennis Landolt said. "He has given me some good insight."
Landolt's father, Marty, was miffed that his son wasn't drafted, but he's thrilled that he signed with the Giants. The two teams that worked him out were the Giants and Eagles, Marty Landolt said. The Giants also worked out another former Holy Cross player, Phil Costa of the University of Maryland. Costa signed as an undrafted free agent with the Dallas Cowboys.
"We felt the Giants had more of a personal relationship with Dennis, and the line coach, Pat Flaherty, recruited my son Kevin when he was in high school," Marty Landolt said.
With the draft over and minicamps in full swing, now comes the hard part for Dennis Landolt: making the team.
The Giants' offensive line, so instrumental in the team's Super Bowl championship in 2008, has started to show some age. One thing that should help Landolt is his versatility. He can play guard or tackle.
"I may even get looked at as a center," he said.
And of course, there are the intangibles that Landolt would bring to the NFL.
"He's a smart kid, doesn't get in any trouble, and is the kind of kid who will keep getting better," Marty Landolt said.
In the end, that might be the best scouting report of all, another reason that teams might regret one day not calling Dennis Landolt's name in this past NFL draft.