After one of the most hectic, draining weeks of his life, Colby Gossett decided to head back to Coal Mountain, where his football career had first sprouted, and rested a bit.
Gossett, who graduated from North Forsyth in 2012, had just been under the most intense spotlight of his football career from Feb. 27 to March 5, at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. He would wake up around 6 a.m. and not get to bed until after 11 p.m. He was shuffled through medical tests, interviews and workouts, not knowing where he was going next until his group leader told him and the rest of the offensive linemen.
The Appalachian State alum stayed sharp through it all, though. He ran the 40-yard dash in 5.22 seconds, 10th-best among the 37 offensive linemen who recorded times at the event. He put up 32 reps at 225 pounds in the bench press, fourth-best among linemen. He answered 32 questions in the Wonderlic intelligence test, an above-average score.
So the event, as exhausting as it was, did nothing to drive Gossett away from the path of being picked in the NFL Draft in late April. He’s projected to go on the third day, and he would be the first player from a Forsyth County high school to ever be drafted.
“I don't really think you can prepare for it,” Gossett said of the draft. “I'm just waiting for the day to come.”
Gossett didn’t appear immediately destined for stardom during his time with the Raiders. He was part of the 2010 team that went 5-5 in the regular season and made the state playoffs out of Region 6-5A, but in Gossett’s junior and senior seasons, the Raiders won just four games total.
North’s coaches saw that Gossett had rare physical tools, though. He stood 6-foot-6 and weighed around 300 pounds as a senior, and he had exceptionally quick feet for his size. For much of his career, he was one of the Raiders’ top defensive linemen.
“He pretty much shut down that side of the offense,” said Scott Williams, who coached North’s defensive line while Gossett was there and currently coaches at Liberty Middle School. “Teams didn't really run at him. They either tried to run outside of him, or they tried to run the other way.”
Blair Armstrong, North’s head coach back then, saw similar physical gifts. He saw, in Gossett, a player who could beat anybody on his own team and most opponents. He saw speed that might not be at the level of a Division I defensive player but would certainly work on the offensive line. The only thing Armstrong didn’t see was undeniable grit and toughness.
“The switch didn't come on all the time,” Armstrong said. “And I've had kids like that before, and a lot of it's because of the competition. In some games, he'd just be lights out; in other games, not as much.”
Armstrong told his fellow coaches that he thought Gossett would either be “very successful” in college or would “be home in a month.” Gossett had plenty of opportunities to get there, especially when he started getting more work on the offensive line and compiling more film late in his senior year. Williams, who played at Appalachian State himself, helped sell Gossett on the Mountaineers, and he was sold on the school’s coaching staff and mountainous scenery.
“You can't beat a Boone, N.C. summer, with no humidity and 85 degree weather,” Gossett said.
Gossett’s time in college was right on Armstrong’s projection. He redshirted as a freshman in 2013, the Mountaineers’ last season in the Football Championship Subdivision, and he was starting at right guard by the second half of his redshirt sophomore season. Gossett started every game from 2015 to 2017, and he was named to the All-Sun Belt first team in each of his final two seasons.
In fact, Gossett heard some discussion about if he would declare for the draft after his redshirt junior season. The potential benefits of staying another year won out, though.
“I saw his pass protection really take it to the next level,” Mountaineers offensive line coach Shawn Clark said of Gossett’s development in 2017. “He's always been a great guy in run blocking … but his pass protection, his steps, taking guys on, and just his overall IQ as far as the pass game goes really took it to the next level this past year.”
After his college career ended, Gossett shifted to training for the draft prep events to come. He was set to play in the East-West Shrine Game, a showcase for seniors, but when opted for the more prestigious Reese’s Senior Bowl when he received an invite to that event.
Much of Gossett’s training with performance coach Chip Smith in Norcross has focused on the drills he would perform at the combine and during his pro day at Appalachian State. That specific training was built to minimize the impact of the mental strain of the event.
“It was mostly just muscle memory going into that stuff,” Gossett said.
Gossett knows that there’s only so much that he can do now. He’s been in contact with former college teammates Ronald Blair and Kendall Lamb, both of whom have played in the NFL, and has gleaned knowledge from them about the draft process. He knows he has a wide range of possible landing spots – “We’ve heard everything from second (round) to free agent,” Gossett said – so he isn’t making too many elaborate preparations. Gossett said he’ll most likely be hanging out at home with friends and family during the draft.
But he’s likely to give the draft its first local connection ever. Gossett grew up a fan of the Atlanta Falcons, and while he would be happy with a chance to play there, the opportunity to play in the NFL is one Gossett welcome, no matter where it takes him.
“I’m willing to go anywhere in the country,” he said. “Whoever wants to sign my paycheck.”