O’Cyrus Torrence and Billy Napier arranged a phone call on the same day each week to discuss joining forces at the University of Louisiana.
Their timing had to be precise. Wireless phone service at Torrence’s grandmother’s home in Greenburg (pop. 718) was spotty at best in the bayou.
To say that Torrence came from nowhere to become a potential first-round pick in the NFL draft is not an exaggeration.
“He would go to that corner of his house where he had cell service and pick up the phone at a certain time every Thursday night,” Napier recalled on March 30 at Gators Pro Day.
The extra effort was worth it.
A raw talent and easily recruited, the massive Torrence quickly developed into the anchor of the offensive line. Napier, coming off a 7-7 debut season in 2018 as a head coach, built the Ragin’ Cajuns’ strong running game behind him.
When Napier went to Florida after their third season together, Torrence followed him to Gainesville, where he became a consensus 2022 All-American. With more than 3,000 college photos, Torrence is one of the few plug-and-play indoor players available when the project starts on Thursday night.
“I come in ready to go, ready to compete from day one,” he said at Pro Day.
Torrence’s record backs him up.
Starting as a true freshman in 2019, he appeared in 48 games, all but the first as a starter. During Torrence’s three seasons in Lafayette, Napier’s running games ranked sixth, 21st and 31st. The Gators’ 2022 rushing offense was 24th nationally.
More impressively, Torrence was never assessed a sack, though he recalls – with a degree of frustration – the one call that ended with a quarterback hit on Levi Lewis.
“It was my junior year at UL,” Torrence said. “The quarterback threw the ball but there was pressure in front of him and they hit him right before he threw it. I thought it was actually a sack until it showed up as a hit on the stat sheet. It made me feel a little better, but it still didn’t change the fact that I gave up a shot.
“That still hurt a little.”
Torrence, 23, is usually the one inflicting pain or a healthy dose of humiliation on those sitting in front of him.
Standing 6-foot-5, 330 pounds with a nearly seven-foot (83 7/8-inch) wingspan and 11 1/4-inch hands, Torrence is a mountain of a man also blessed with nimble feet, along with the flexibility to achieve leverage and the balance to maintain it.
“Very reliable, very consistent, tough, durable and some weird, weird physical traits,” Napier said.
Torrence’s measurables at the NFL Scouting Combine, including a pedestrian 23 reps at 225 pounds, weren’t off the charts like quarterback Anthony Richardson’s. Unlike the Gators’ 2022 signal caller, Torrence did his best work on game film.
Mock drafts teams will select him during the first round at the end or beginning of the second round, a pick based more on his position than his production. Guards are on the priority list, but there are exceptions.
Only 11 guards have been drafted in the last 10 drafts, six of them in the top 20.
After shedding at least 15 pounds from last season and improving his speed, Torrence said he can line up anywhere along the offensive line.
“I played left guard, right guard and right tackle in games. I practiced center,” he said. “I feel like I have a lot of opportunities where my team needs me.”
However, a long time analyst Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline Torrence pigeons on guard.
“Torrence is specifically a power gap blocker — you’re not going to use him in a staggered zone where he can move,” Pauline said. “I’d say there’s a slim chance he’ll go in the first round, [but] it’s not out of the question.”
Wherever Torrence ends up, it will be a long way from home.
The hamlet of Greenburg in the parish of St. Helena is one of the oldest cities in Louisiana and one of the most remote. There, Torrence shared a trailer with his mother, grandmother and three siblings.
The tight quarters got tighter as Torrence grew to over 400 pounds in eighth grade. Football would become his salvation and eventually his meal ticket.
Although Torrence placed outside of the nation’s top 1,500 prospects in the 2019 class, Napier discovered it early just over 100 miles northeast of Lafayette. He made a connection before other schools could swoop in as Torrence’s potential became apparent.
“Thank God for the early signing period,” Napier said.
Torrence will thank himself when he is selected during the NFL draft. Unlike those recruiting calls with Napier, he’s sure to hear his name loud and clear.
But on the biggest night of his football career, Torrence will be the first to say he didn’t do it alone.
“I know I wouldn’t have gotten here without where I came from, so the journey and everyone that helped me get to this point, I can’t thank them enough,” he said. “I had people helping me, pushing me, motivating me on days when I might have wanted to take the easy way out. Having the right coaches around me, the right family and friends helped a lot.”
This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Edgar Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @osgators.