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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Andrew Gamble

NFL Draft 2023: Steve Avila on Philadelphia Eagles inspirations and Dallas Cowboys hopes

When an NFL franchise selects Steve Avila in the 2023 NFL Draft, they are going to get the complete package.

Avila was a three-year starter at TCU, enhancing the offensive line with his versatility, power and athleticism. His size makes him resistant to opposing power, while his light feet allows his pass protection and run blocking to extend beyond the box.

He was the anchor and leader of the offensive line as the Horned Frogs captivated the college football world en route to a National Championship Game appearance. Avila has a chance of starting immediately in the NFL - and he will undoubtedly enjoy a successful career at the professional level after not allowing a sack for the last two seasons of his collegiate career.

“There’s a lot of different things that shine for me when I watch and analyse myself, but a lot of people say I’m an inside zone guy,” Avila exclusively told Mirror Sport . “I believe that but I also believe there are other aspects of my game that are just as good. I feel like I can fit into any scheme and do what is asked to an exceptional level.

“I have unrealistically high expectations for myself. Zero sacks is perfect, but really I just want to dominate the rep. There’s always room for improvement. You cannot get content with everything in this profession; that’s how I approach the game.”

Avila was a team captain for the Horned Frogs as they reached the National Championship for the first time since 1938 last season. It is not easy to flip the culture of a programme during the entirety of a collegiate career - but he helped TCU pull it off in one year.

Against all odds and stacked up against the most leading and prestigious football programs in the country, the Horned Frogs established dominance. They answered the call in ways no other TCU team had done before - and Avila praised the coaching staff for giving the players the opportunity to step up and deliver.

Steve Avila excelled for the TCU Horned Frogs, allowing zero sacks over the last two seasons (Getty Images)

“I have a whole story about this,” Avila excitedly began. “Kaz Kazadi was our strength coach and one thing I like about him is he brings the mental aspect into the game. Not a lot of coaches do that, and he’s knowledgeable enough to do so.

“After arriving at TCU, one of the first things he would do was repeatedly ask: ‘What do we do here?’ For weeks straight, we didn’t know what he was talking about - and then he finally said: ‘We win championships’. It became our saying for the year.

“It's funny, because the very first meeting, he pulled up a PowerPoint and when he said that, I looked over at one of my friends all dismissively because that’s a crazy thing to go from 5-6 to the championship. It doesn’t just happen.

"But it was the thought process at the beginning that put us on the right track, and everybody bought into it. It was a big mentality shift. It proved to me that hard work really does pay off, and it was beautiful.”

Steve Avila is expected to get picked up in the NFL Draft (Getty Images)

When asked what he learned most about himself during TCU’s Cinderella run to the National Championship Game, Avila pondered the question for a moment before saying: “The amount of potential I truly have. I know potential doesn’t really mean anything, but if you turn on the film from my first and last game, you see two different players. I feel like I progressively got better every single game - and I'm still on a steady incline going up.”

It was truly intriguing to hear how Avila’s experiences at TCU and throughout his youth ultimately cultivated his mammoth mentality and down-to-earth personality. He supported the Dallas Cowboys as they were his local team and while he was admittedly not a huge follower, he knew they had an 'incredible' offensive line, kickstarting his journey to the NFL.

“Reaching the NFL myself didn’t come into my mind until TCU,” Avila revealed. “Even in high school, I just played as hard as I could and when I got my first offer, I started to believe in myself. At TCU, I was named All-Big 12 and All-American, so I started to think I could get drafted. I’m always setting constant goals for myself.

"Obviously, getting drafted is next - but then it will be to start in an NFL game. When that happens, I want to get selected All-Pro, and so on.”

Avila grew up in Fort Worth, which shares the same interstate highway as Dallas - so given his proximity to the Cowboys and coming from TCU, the 23-year-old hit headlines recently when he suggested the Cowboys would be the best-case scenario for him in this month’s draft. He was quick to shut that down: “A lot of people took that out of context!

“I said it would be cool if they drafted me, but I’m going to be blessed wherever I go and whichever team wants me, I will love and give my all. I was just saying it would be cool to play in front of my family and friends - anybody would want that.”

Avila’s admiration for the Cowboys is clear. The twinkle in his eye when describing the franchise’s exceptional offensive line of the last decade appears like the iconic navy star slapped on the silver helmets - but he also praised a pair of Philadelphia Eagles linemen who are destined for the Hall of Fame.

“The offensive line the Dallas Cowboys had, because they were amazing: Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, Tyron Smith,” Avila said. “Another person I admire is Jason Kelce and how he uses his technique. Some of the guys he goes up against weigh more than him, but the technique is so good it skyrockets him to another level.

Steve Avila showcased his talent in the Senior Bowl back in February (Getty Images)

“Trent Williams, Lane Johnson… just guys who are just amazing at what they do. I try not to fanboy too much because we’re sort of at the same level in terms of being peers in the NFL, but on the defensive side, Aaron Donald. He’s a Hall of Famer, so just having the opportunity to face him is going to be awesome.”

When suggesting Avila could one day sign a contract like Lane Johnson’s remarkable one-year extension worth $33.445m, the guard laughed and said: “Oh that would be crazy! We’ll be able to recall this interview for sure.”

Ultimately, there’s a long road ahead of Avila to get to where Johnson is financially and technically. But with a mature head fixed firmly on his broad shoulders, the kid from Fort Worth understands what he will bring to the organisation that fulfils his dreams later this month.

“[An NFL franchise] are going to get a versatile, hard working player that is always trying to prove himself,” Avila declared. “I don’t like getting content and I don’t like lying to myself, either. I always feel I can constantly improve on the way I play the game and even my character.

“They’re also getting a leader. Prior to this year, I feel like I was more of a lead by example guy. In our fall camp, we didn’t have a good practice and it was one of our first sessions. I was so fed up because it was such a bad practice, and I’ve never got mad at anybody, busted a cap or gone over the top - but this angered me so much because I was tired of being part of a losing programme. I got up there and voiced my concern, and I feel like I earned respect from my teammates and coaches after that.”

Given his body of work at TCU paired with an admirable mentality and work ethic, it won't take long for Avila to earn respect from teammates and opponents alike in the NFL.

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