Tyler Bray left the University of Tennessee with one season of collegiate eligibility remaining thinking he might be one of the first quarterbacks picked in the NFL Draft last month.
He wasn’t drafted at all, dropping all the way through to rookie free agency. That made for a rather uncomfortable three-day experience.
“It’s not your choice,’’ said Bray, who eventually signed with the Chiefs and is participating in this weekend’s rookie camp. “You’re not the one sitting around in the draft room picking, so you just wait around. If you don’t get drafted, you pick up the phone and try to find a team and I found a team here in Kansas City.”
Based on ability alone, Bray should have been drafted. He displayed a strong arm at the rookie camp, which concludes today, and at 6-foot-6 and 232 pounds has the classic size that NFL teams look for in a quarterback.
He didn’t get drafted because of a lack of maturity and work habits that were sometimes sloppy. Bray said he may have stayed at Tennessee for his final season had he known he wouldn’t be drafted.
“Who knows?’’ he said. “I’m here now and I’m just trying to move forward.
“I knew I was going to have to earn my way regardless of if I got drafted or not. I’m just looking forward to playing and hopefully learning the system.”
The Chiefs seem to think they got a bargain in Bray by signing him after the draft. He is clearly the most gifted of the three quarterbacks participating in rookie camp, Dayne Crist of Kansas and Alex Gillett of Eastern Michigan being the others.
Bray is the only one among the group under contract to the Chiefs. Crist and Gillett are at camp on a trial basis and the Chiefs, who also have Alex Smith, Chase Daniel and Ricky Stanzi on their roster, appear to have no room for another quarterback.
Bray would appear to have an excellent chance to make the regular-season roster. Smith and Daniel are the top two quarterbacks with Bray and Stanzi having a shot at the third spot.
Stanzi will have his chance to make his statement to new coach Andy Reid when the Chiefs continue with full squad practices beginning on Tuesday. Bray was making his early move at rookie camp.
“He just needs to continue to improve,’’ Reid said. “That’s what he needs to do, learn the offense, handle it the right way and do the right things. He understands that. He knows the places where he made mistakes at Tennessee. But he also knows he’s a pretty good football player.
“It’s important he learns our system and takes positive steps forward and not negative steps backward.’’
NFL teams evidently believed Bray’s negatives outweighed his potential -- he was evicted from his college apartment for destroying another tenant’s car with beer bottles, although he did pay for the damage.
“I made a lot of mistakes at Tennessee,’’ said Bray, who wouldn’t elaborate. “I had a lot of off the field issues and that could have had something to do with it. Stupid mistakes. I’m here now and I’m a free agent. That’s OK with me. I’m just here to play football.
“Every rookie in the draft has got to prove something. We all knew we weren’t going to come in and start. I’m going coming in to battle. I’m going to try to learn from Alex (Smith). He’s a veteran quarterback and I’m going to try to learn a lot from him.”