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North Dakota State QB Wentz only focused on what’s in front of him

INDIANAPOLIS -- One day at a time. That's been Carson Wentz's mantra. One day at a time while rising up the quarterback depth chart at North Dakota State. One day at a time while leading the Bison to a national championship in 2014. One day at a ...

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North Dakota State Bison quarterback Carson Wentz speaks to the media during the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. (Photo by Brian Spurlock / USA TODAY Sports)

INDIANAPOLIS - One day at a time.

That’s been Carson Wentz’s mantra. One day at a time while rising up the quarterback depth chart at North Dakota State. One day at a time while leading the Bison to a national championship in 2014. One day at a time while recuperating from a broken wrist to lead the Bison to another national crown in 2015.

One day at a time to become the hottest topic at this year’s Scouting Combine and a potential top-five pick in the NFL Draft in two months.

“Well, it was always a dream,” Wentz told a huge throng of reporters and a wall of TV cameras gathered around Podium C at Lucas Oil Stadium on Thursday. “But I knew. I took it one day at a time. I didn’t think that today for two years this is where I’m going to be. I didn’t think like that. It was a goal, but I was always just one day at a time trying to get better. Obviously, I only started for two years in college. I knew I had to make the most of the opportunities. I thought I did the best I could.”

The NFL has taken notice, with Wentz’s rise having no recent parallel. Alcorn State’s Steve McNair went No. 3 overall to the Houston Oilers in 1995. That’s the earliest an FCS-level quarterback has been selected. Wentz possibly could go No. 2 to Cleveland, which is expected to cut its losses with Johnny Manziel, who drew a huge crowd at Podium C before the 2014 draft.

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No one’s comparing Wentz to the troubled Manziel. Instead, the comparison was to the quarterback who calls Lucas Oil Stadium his home, Andrew Luck.

“When I look at him, I see a kid that’s as athletic or more athletic than Andrew Luck,” NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said during his pre-Combine conference call on Tuesday. “He’s bigger than Andrew Luck. He’s got arm strength comparable to Andrew Luck. He just doesn’t have the experience that Andrew Luck had at a high level coming out of college. So I see a ceiling for this kid similar to Andrew Luck. That’s why I believe in this kid so much, but it’s going to take a little bit of time.”

Wentz has impressed at every turn. After helping the Bison win another national championship this season, he showed at the Senior Bowl that his college success wasn’t a byproduct of playing against inferior competition. It’s not just the arm and athleticism that have impressed, though.

“I know just how much people respect his play on the field, but I think as you get a chance to meet him as a person, it’ll even climb even higher,” Jacksonville Jaguars coach Gus Bradley, a former North Dakota State coach who happened to coach Wentz at the Senior Bowl, said on Thursday. “He’s just got a good perspective. Sometimes, you see guys that come out maybe of a (FCS) or Division II (school), it takes some time to adjust or you wonder is it too big. That’s not the case with him, in just my conversations.”

As a first-round pick – and especially an early first-round pick – Wentz will be expected to become a franchise quarterback. That carries heavy expectations.

“First and foremost, you’ve got to win,” Wentz said. “I think being a winner in the NFL, that will take you places, for sure. I think for me coming out of North Dakota State, I think the track record speaks for itself as a winner. So, when I think of a franchise quarterback, not only do I think of the physical ability, but I think of being a winner, winning ballgames, taking command, being a leader. All those things come to mind.”

Wentz and California’s Jared Goff are the top contenders to be the No. 1 quarterback off the board. They’ve been training together in Irvine, Calif., for the last several weeks, Goff said, making it a friendly competition.

“He’s a great player, a hell of a quarterback, and he’s going to be really good wherever he goes,” Goff said.

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Wentz isn’t hung up on that battle, though. He’s only looking for the right landing spot.

“As a competitor, everyone wants to be the top guy, no doubt about it. But what matters to me is the team that picks me that believes in me,” Wentz said. “I want to go somewhere where they believe in myself to be that franchise quarterback, whether right away or down the road. That’s what’s important to me.”

Sounds like a guy living in one-day-at-a-time mode.

Related Topics: CARSON WENTZ
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