It was a wild four months of training, interviews and mock drafts for former UCF quarterback Blake Bortles, and it all culminated into a day he will not soon forget.
With his family present at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall, the Oviedo native turned his dream into reality as NFL commissioner Roger Goodell read off the words that every football player works so hard to hear:
“With the third pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars select Blake Bortles.”
As Bortles heard his name called, UCF fans immediately started getting excited about driving the short distance up the road to watch a talent that took the Knights to extraordinary heights during his time in a Black and Gold uniform.
By being selected third, Bortles became the highest draft pick in UCF history, surpassing Daunte Culpepper who was drafted 11th overall by Minnesota in 1999. Bortles and Culpepper now stand as the Knights’ only two first-round picks and quarterbacks to be selected in the NFL Draft.
UCF has now produced at least one Knight in the NFL Draft in each of the last nine seasons. Entering this year’s draft, it is one of 32 schools with one or more players selected each year dating back to the 2006 draft.
Bortles is the 32nd UCF player to be tagged in the draft, 13 of which have been mentored by head coach George O’Leary who just completed his 10th year at the helm of the program. Of the previous 12 O’Leary-produced draft picks, Josh Sitton (won), Jah Reid (won) and Bruce Miller have reached the Super Bowl.
The Knights’ first draft picks came back in 1987 with Ted Wilson (10th round) and Elgin Davis (12th round).
Signing with UCF on Feb. 3, 2010, Bortles redshirted as a true freshman before being voted on to the 2011 Conference USA All-Freshman Team. Appearing in 10 games off the bench, he completed 68.2 percent of his passes, throwing six touchdowns in the process.
Taking over as UCF’s starter in 2012, he would be named to the All-C-USA Second Team by throwing for 3,059 yards and 25 touchdowns. He also ran for eight scores during the campaign, leading UCF to a 10-4 record, a C-USA East Division title and a victory over Ball State in the Beef `O’ Brady’s Bowl.
Bortles then found the national spotlight as a junior in 2013. Guiding the Black and Gold to its most memorable season since its inception in 1979, Bortles and UCF went 12-1 with the American Athletic Conference title and a win against Baylor in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
He was voted as the 2013 American Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year and was a semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award. Bortles completed the season with 3,581 passing yards and a 67.8 completion percentage, racking up 25 touchdowns. On the ground, he sported 272 yards and six scores.
Bortles finished his career with a 22-5 record as a starter.