Justin Herbert’s football journey is coming full circle.
And it’s a relatively small circle.
The former Oregon Ducks quarterback will participate in Thursday’s NFL draft from his childhood home in Eugene, which is about a Herbert "Hail Mary" pass away from Autzen Stadium.
Herbert, who is expected to be selected early in the first round, will celebrate with his parents, Mark and Holly, and his brothers, Mitchell and Patrick.
The 6-foot-6, 236-pound Herbert has the size and smarts — the UO biology graduate won the Campbell Trophy as a senior, also known as the academic Heisman Trophy — to be an NFL franchise quarterback.
During the draft process, the quiet Herbert did his best to alleviate any concerns teams have about his leadership.
"When I showed up (at Oregon) I was shy," Herbert said after working out for scouts last month in the Moshofsky Center. "I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes, and the quarterback can’t be that. I’ve done a better job of being vocal, stepping up and stepping out of my comfort zone to do that."
Herbert led the Ducks to a 12-2 finish, which concluded with the former Sheldon High three-sport star showing off his running skills during the victories over Utah in the Pac-12 championship game and Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.
After finishing his eventful collegiate career with 10,541 passing yards, 95 touchdowns and 23 interceptions, Herbert was named the most valuable player of the Senior Bowl in January.
Herbert also helped his draft stock by throwing at the NFL Scouting Combine in February, an exercise Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow (LSU) skipped and Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama) was unavailable for due to injury.
"I know it sounds kind of cheesy and politically correct," Herbert said during his media session at the combine in Indianapolis. "But I’m excited wherever I go."
The Cincinnati Bengals are almost certainly planning to take Burrow, an Ohio native who led LSU to the national championship with 60 touchdowns passes and only six interceptions last season, with the No. 1 overall pick.
Herbert said on the Pat McAfee Show that the Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Chargers — two other teams at the top of the draft in the market for a quarterback — are the organizations he spent the most time video chatting with leading up to the event.
Justin Herbert chats about his virtual draft day setup #PatMcAfeeShowLIVE pic.twitter.com/w8lrwHGZ94— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) April 22, 2020
The Dolphins have the No. 5 pick, and the Chargers have the No. 6 pick.
Herbert and Tagovailoa are both projected to be top-10 picks, and Utah State’s Jordan Love also has a first-round grade from many scouts.
Here’s a portion of the detailed scouting report from The Athletic on Oregon’s homegrown star:
"Overall, Herbert is a dynamic dual-threat passer with an elite combination of size, athleticism and arm talent," Dane Brugler writes in his 246-page draft guide. "But he must sharpen his decision-making and instincts, especially under duress, to live up to his immense potential as an NFL starter. He projects best in a heavy play-action offense that utilizes his athleticism."
Herbert will be the sixth Oregon quarterback picked in the first round, joining Marcus Mariota (2015, Tennessee), Joey Harrington (2002, Detroit), Akili Smith (1999, Cincinnati), Chris Miller (1987, Atlanta) and George Shaw (1955, Baltimore).
"It’s been really cool for me. I’ve known Justin since he was a little kid," Miller, who played with Mark Herbert at Sheldon, said during an interview with The Register-Guard last season. "I’ve known his dad since grade school. I remember watching Justin go left, flip his hips and rip one about 35 or 40 yards across the field in the fourth grade. When he made that throw I was like, ‘Oh man, there is something special about that kid.’
"It’s turned out to be the case."
A crowd of 600,000 was expected to flock to Las Vegas for the draft before the host city was shut down by the COVID-19 health crisis.
Herbert will be one of the headliners during Thursday’s virtual draft, which will be simulcast by ESPN and the NFL Network. ABC will also air its own version of the first three rounds.
There are two cameras set up at Herbert’s house in anticipation of his being drafted early and participating in the broadcast.
"It’s definitely a tough situation, but to be here and to be able to compete is a great honor," Herbert said after his pro day workout on March 12, which was one of the last live sporting events in the country. "Cool experience. Hopefully everyone comes out of it safely."
Other Ducks hoping to hear their names called on Friday or Saturday include linebacker Troy Dye (projected fourth/fifth round), offensive linemen Shane Lemieux (fourth/fifth), Calvin Throckmorton (seventh) and Jake Hanson (seventh/undrafted), wide receiver Juwan Johnson (sixth) and tight end Jacob Breeland (undrafted).
Contact reporter Ryan Thorburn at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-338-2330, and follow him on Twitter @By_RyanThorburn and Instagram @rg_ducksports. Want more stories like this? Subscribe to get unlimited access and support local journalism.