MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- One of the biggest success stories from the 2020 Elite 11 FInals comes from one of the biggest underdogs of the competition.
At least, that's how Grayson (Loganville, Ga.) quarterback and 2021 Florida Gators commit Carlos Del Rio viewed himself entering the week. Not carrying the same hype as fellow 2021 quarterback prospects Caleb Williams (Gonzaga College HS - Washington, D.C.), Brock Vandagriff (Prince Ave. Christian - Bogart, Ga.), and multiple others, Del Rio was motivated to stand out and earn the respect he believed he deserved.
"Coming in, I actually felt like I had a chip on my shoulder, me being ranked lower than I wanted and expected," Del Rio told Sports Illustrated-AllGators. "Most definitely felt like I came here and had something to prove."
And he sure did prove something, alright.
Del Rio finished the 2020 Elite 11 Finals as Sports Illustrated All-American's No. 5 quarterback from the event, tied with Mesquite (Gilbert, Az.) signal-caller Ty Thompson based on a composite grading score. Del Rio was also SIAA's No. 1 performer in the pro day workout on day two, posting an event-leading 12 "money" throws.
5 (tie). Carlos Del Rio - Loganville (Ga.) Grayson
Composite Score: 6.66, Day one rank: 10, Day two rank: 1, Day three rank: 9.
Del Rio's performance at Elite 11 was one of the biggest surprises of the week, and certainly for the better. His best showing came during the pro day workout on Day 2, where Del Rio threw a camp-leading 12 "money" throws based on Sports Illustrated All-American's grading scale. He followed with the second-best time in the accuracy gauntlet according to Elite 11, with a solid accuracy grade from SIAA coming in 9th place. Throwing on the run was already a strength of Del Rio's entering the week, and he was certainly one of the best quarterbacks out there in that department - just take a look at his deep corner throws.
On Wednesday, Del Rio ranked second-best in time elapsed in the accuracy gauntlet, a drill testing both accuracy and efficiency with quarterbacks attempting to throw through a target from eight different stations with a maximum of 30 seconds per station. According to SIAA's grading scale from the drill, accounting more for actual throw accuracy rather than time elapsed, Del Rio still finished in the top ten to cap off a strong week.
"Throughout the entire week I thought I performed pretty good," said Del Rio. "[I] had a little off-day the first day, second day came back strong and third day came back even stronger. I felt like I just needed to lock in and when I did lock-in, the tape shows it all."
Del Rio was particularly fond of his throws on deep-7 routes from Tuesday's pro day workout, he mentioned.
After impressing just about everyone at the camp, Del Rio was in the right to include himself in his personal top quarterbacks at Elite 11 along with Williams, Vandagriff, and IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla) QB J.J. McCarthy.
Camp coaches and counselors were also impressed by Del Rio's consistently good performance during the week. Former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer and highly-respected quarterback trainer Quincy Avery heaped praise for the 6-3, 205 lb. signal-caller after the event wrapped up, noting that his fit at Florida is ideal.
"I've had an opportunity to see Carlos a lot over the last couple months," noted Avery. "Carlos is tremendously talented, I think the arm strength he displayed this week was off-the-charts."
Avery, along with fellow trainer Sean McEvoy at Quarterback Takeover in the Atlanta (Ga.) area, has trained Del Rio and other top quarterbacks for some time now and understands the intricacies of his game perhaps as well as anyone.
"He has a ton of talent, he's going to continue to become more fluid and more relaxed at the quarterback position," said Avery. "He's going to put himself in position to be really, really successful in his football career."
Dilfer, who serves as the head coach of Elite 11 and spent 14 years in the NFL and won a Super Bowl as the Baltimore Ravens' starter in 2000, is a big fan of the physical attributes Del Rio brings to the table. Making note of his mobility as a plus-trait, Dilfer complimented Del Rio's current stature and believes he will make it in the SEC against tough hits and tackles with little issue.
However, Dilfer is looking forward to seeing Del Rio, as well as many other Elite 11 participants, taking the next step mentally.
"He's a high ceiling prospect," stated Dilfer. "As he refines his game and keeps learning more football and gets exposed to more stuff, he's a really talented kid... with a lot of these kids, their talent is ahead of their game but we know the game is going to get there."
Del Rio is inspired to grow in that respect. One of the biggest things he learned from the week is the importance of mental strength on the field. "You can't let your thoughts overcome your mind," Del Rio said. "You gotta just stay in control of the game."
At Florida, Del Rio will have plenty of quality football minds around him to continue developing that mental aspect of his game. Head coach Dan Mullen is well-respected in the industry for his work with quarterbacks, and Avery believes Mullen's influence will only be the beginning.
"I think it's a great fit," Avery said of Del Rio's future with the Gators. "He gets to be in a quarterback room with Emory [Jones], [quarterbacks] coach [Brian] Johnson, and the rest of those guys so he's going to get developed by one of the best offensive coaches and one of the best quarterback coaches around. Any time you can get somebody that athletic in your program, that athletic with the ability to pass the way that he can, you're going to be put in a good position."