Sometimes we find the greatest treasures when we are not even looking for them.
When scouts from 31 NFL teams made the trek to Orlando, Florida for the University of Central Florida’s pro day this past Wednesday – they thought they were there just to watch the 24 former Knights go through various drills.
Most probably wanted to get a second, up-close look at Shaquem Griffin – the one-handed linebacker that took the NFL Scouting Combine by storm when he ran a 4.38 time in the 40 and bench pressed 225 pounds 20 times.
But as the offensive drills began, many of the scouts found themselves asking the same question.
“Who is that guy throwing the ball?”
“The guy” was former UCF and Miami Central quarterback Jeff Godfrey. The 26-year-old went back to his college alma mater to support his school and help his fellow Knights, but maybe ended up helping himself.
According to the Orlando Sentinel’s Mike Bianchi, who attended the pro day, Godfrey made just about everyone in attendance take notice of the way he threw the ball – “flawless spirals, laser-like darts, hitting receivers in stride, delivering the ball with both touch and tempo”.
As UCF’s 2017 leading receiver Tre’Quan Smith, who is expected to be an early-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft, put it: “we made magic happen”.
“Every ball Jeff threw to me, I loved it,” Smith said after the pro day.
While seeing throws like that come off Godfrey’s hand was a surprise to some, anyone from South Florida will quickly tell you: “that’s Jeff”.
From his days playing in one of Dade’s top optimist programs, to being starter as a freshman at Miami Edison, to his record-setting three years at Miami Central – Godfrey terrorized defenses and wowed fans with his ability evade tacklers and throw the ball deep downfield with just a flick of the wrist – earning him the nickname “The Rocket Launcher” from legendary Traz Powell Stadium PA announcer William Wilcox.
During his senior year of high school (2009), Godfrey led Central to a 12-2 record and broke former Miami Northwestern quarterback Jacory Harris’s Miami-Dade County career passing record – which Harris had set just two years before – with 7,251 yards.
On a roster that ended featuring at least six players that went on to have pro careers, including two-time Pro Bowl, Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman – Godfrey was the superstar.
Determined to play quarterback after leaving the high school ranks – and rightfully so – Godfrey elected to sign with UCF in 2010 (over schools like Miami, Michigan, Georgia, Tennessee and Oregon) because then-head coach George O’Leary and Knights were the only program willing to give a chance to play quarterback.
Godfrey continued his “Rocket Launcher” ways in Mickey Town, quickly earning the starting quarterback job and turning in a freshman season unlike the school had ever seen.
He set single-season freshman records in passing yards (2,159) as well as records for rushing yards (566) and rushing touchdowns (10) by a quarterback. Godfrey also led UCF to a Conference USA championship, an 11-win season, and the school’s first bowl victory – a 10-6 win over Georgia in the Liberty Bowl – that year.
T-shirts in support of Godfrey began popping up all over town and once again Godfrey was the shining star; while eventual 2014 NFL Draft No. 3 overall pick quarterback Blake Bortles rode the bench as one of Godfrey’s understudy’s.
Unfortunately, injuries derailed Godfrey’s sophomore season – and opened the door for Bortles – as O’Leary stayed with the 6-foot-6 Bortles over the 5-foot-11 Godfrey.
Godfrey reluctantly switched to wide receiver to finish his career at UCF – ending with 82 receptions for 835 yards and seven touchdowns.
A few pro teams gave Godfrey a shot as a receiver, but nothing materialized.
The fabled Miami-Dade high school quarterback returned to his roots, helping coach quarterbacks at his alma mater and at Davie University School.
Still, Godfrey never gave up on his dream. He continued working out on his own and decided to follow what can only be described as “Divine instruction” to participate in UCF’s pro day.
According to one of Godfrey’s former coaches, Dwight Jackson Sr. – the owner of Miami’s Richardson Funeral Home – Godfrey’s display this past Wednesday has earned him some serious inquiries from a handful of pro teams – perhaps for future workouts or camp invites.
And that’s all Godfrey is asking for – a chance to prove that he still got “The Rocket Launcher” in him.
“I’m working out every day,” Godfrey told Bianchi. “I’m doing quarterback drills, lifting weights, keeping my arm in shape. I hope to get invited to an NFL camp after the draft and hopefully get somebody to give me a chance.