Meet Brody Oliver - The engineering graduate set to test his NFL mettle
When looking at the Twitter page of an NFL draft prospect the term 'metallurgical engineer' is not one you expect to come across.
Yet that is how the bio of Brody Oliver reads, with this pro hopeful having chosen to pursue a degree that is reflective of the versatility he has had to show to reach the cusp of making it to the NFL.
Metallurgy is the study of the physical and chemical behaviour of metallic elements, but how did a prospective NFL wide receiver end up with a degree in that field from the Colorado School of Mines – one of the top mining schools in the United States?
"I got my interest from my dad," Oliver told Omnisport. "He's a welding instructor and he knew the welding professor up at Mines, so I did some graduate research with him. He got me interested in metallurgy.
"You learn about, depending on what kind of atoms are made up and what kind of elements are within the metal, what kind of property you get, how strong something is, how brittle, you get all these different properties, how resistant to corrosion they are, stuff like that.
"Once you understand that you can apply that knowledge to industry, whether you're going into mining - trying to take ore and rock out of the ground and make iron - or you're going to the automotive industry, making engines, making car body frames, doing anything with materials. You're taking that basic level of metals and materials and you're applying it in industry that uses materials, which is far and wide.
"That's why I like metallurgy, you can go into mining, you can go into oil and gas, you can go into the medical field, automotive industry, aerospace, you can really work in a wide of array of industries. That's something I really thought was great about it."
4,010 career yards (Mines record)— Mines Athletics (@MinesAthletics) December 12, 2018
59 career TD catches (RMAC record)
21 TD catches in 2018 (NCAA #1)
Second-Team Academic All-America
And now, First-Team All-America
Congrats to @bsoliver15 on another well-deserved honor! #HelluvaEngineerhttps://t.co/3HjH7qD3vS
It is a qualification that keeps Oliver's options open, which is fitting for a player whose willingness to try new roles has been pivotal to the progression of his football career. Like many 6ft 3in high school athletes, Oliver wanted to play quarterback. However, not highly recruited by prospective colleges, he resigned himself to that ambition not coming to pass.
"I just wanted to keep playing football any way I could," he explained. "Originally when Mines recruited me they wanted me to play defense, they wanted to put me at corner or safety but then the guy who recruited me, he left, and the receivers coach asked me to move over to offense.
"When I was getting recruited to Mines I knew going in I wouldn't be a quarterback, they just kind of recruited me as an athlete and when I got there they moved me to receiver and let me go."
To say that position switch paid off is an understatement. Oliver enjoyed a stellar collegiate career and led college football in receiving touchdowns in 2016 and 2018. Such achievements would normally lead to a lot of pre-draft attention, but Mines is not a powerhouse of collegiate athletics. It is a Division II program and, as a result, Oliver has flown largely under the radar.
However, he was invited to the East-West Shrine Game and met with numerous scouts at that college All-Star contest, while the Los Angeles Chargers spoke to him after he produced a strong performance in athletic testing at his recent pro day.
Having played in college football's second tier, there are likely to be doubts over whether Oliver can make the substantial jump to the NFL. However, inspired by two small-school success stories in Minnesota Vikings star Adam Thielen and Los Angeles Rams wideout Cooper Kupp, Oliver has great confidence he can do so.
"Adam Thielen, especially because he was a Division II player, had an incredible career, [he's] just been a great role model," Oliver replied when asked which players inspire him. "He's done it the hard way, he didn't sign an undrafted free agent contract, he had to go through rookie minicamp and was on the practice squad for a couple of years, he really did things the hard way.
"I think the guy I model a lot of my game after is Cooper Kupp, he's not a speed receiver, not lightning fast but he's always reliable, he's always catching passes, got great hands, runs great routes. He's really had a successful career so far. I'm always watching a lot of his tape, seeing what little things he does, what routes he's running and stuff like that. I'm always studying his tape.
"As for making the jump, I just think it's a lot of hard work. There's a lot of things I can bring to a team that I think are unique. I'm a smart guy, I know how to study, I know to put in a ton of hours of work to understand the game.
"I think I'm a good enough athlete for sure to compete at the next level. I'm confident in my abilities and at the end of the day, when we all strap on helmets it's just who's going to out-compete somebody else and I think I'll win a lot of those battles. I won them in college and I know it wasn't always against the greatest talent but I have a great skill set and I'm really confident in using that skill set at the next level."
Oliver's drive has been instilled into him by his parents, with his mother and father each integral in pushing him to pursue his dream.
"My dad's been great. He's always one of my biggest fans," said Oliver. "Every game he just tells me I'm his horse, he's always gonna bet on me."
Betting on Oliver has consistently proven to be the right decision throughout his college career, and he is now at the point where he can expect a phone call come the draft on the final weekend in April. That call may well come late on day three or even after the draft, but its timing will have no impact on its significance for a player who is poised to see his unwavering dedication to his sport rewarded.
"It'll mean the world to me," Oliver said of that prospective call. "Any way that I can keep playing football, keep chasing that dream, it's just going to be incredible, if that opportunity comes.
"I'm incredibly excited for it and ready to work my butt off for it, just to keep playing ball, if it comes I can tell you it'll be a dream come true, just playing football another day."