The question was put to him point blank. What if you don’t make it, he was asked?
First came the stare, followed by silence. Clearly, Diondre Borel hasn’t given much thought to not making it.
“This is what I’m focused on right now,” Borel said.
Borel is a 6-0, 199-pound, undrafted free agent making the transition from college spread-offense quarterback to pro wide receiver. It’s a sign of the times.
When training camp began, Borel had little chance of making it onto the roster of the Super Bowl-champion Packers, a team so steeped in talent at the receiving positions that veterans are being challenged by the competition. A week later, his chances are still slim, but once or twice a night Borel has made a catch of some consequence, and he’s starting to look like a guy worthy of some attention.
“We always thought he could be a wide receiver. He’s so athletic,” his offensive coordinator at Utah State, Dave Baldwin said.
Borel was Baldwin’s star player last year, on a team that was ravaged by injuries early in the season. The Aggies lost their two best running backs, wide receivers and tackles in quick succession. What was supposed to be a big senior season for Borel, turned into a survival struggle.
“Here he is a senior with six starters gone and he never blinked. He didn’t have a weapon; he was our only weapon. He carried us,” Baldwin said.
Borel had a chance to sign with several NFL teams, but picked the Packers because Packers assistant wide receivers and special teams coach John Rushing was the man that recruited Borel to Utah State. Borel felt a sense of security in joining Rushing in Green Bay.
“Most of the teams told me they wanted to see me at receiver. I want to make the team; show coaches I can play receiver and special teams. I feel I’m playing well. These preseason games, this is when you have to showcase what you’ve got,” Borel said.
He would’ve liked to have showcased his talents in Saturday’s “Family Night” practice, but a thunderstorm ended the event before he could get onto the field. He hopes to get some playing time Saturday night in Cleveland in the Packers’ preseason opener.
“You have to focus on what you can control and everything will fall into place. Ever since I was little, I told people I wanted to play in the NFL. Being drafted was part of my goal, but it didn’t happen,” he said.
Borel ended his Utah State career as the school’s second all-time leader in total offense and second all-time passing yards leader, despite not being surrounded by weapons. He was a major talent in an offense that doesn’t exist in the pro game.
“I thought he’d be a Seneca Wallace kind of guy,” said Baldwin, who thought the CFL was the perfect place for a spread-type quarterback such as Borel. “He’s their kind of kid,” Baldwin said.
Borel wanted a shot at the big time.
“It’s almost unreal being in this atmosphere, practicing with the players you see on TV. It was my dad’s favorite team,” he said of the Packers.
“The mom has done one heckuva job of raising that kid," Baldwin said. "He comes off looking hard with all of those tattoos, but he’s soft-hearted to young kids. He gave them his chinstraps, signed autographs. He’s everything you’d want in a young man.”
“He’s been through a lot in his life. Things don’t affect him. If he gets cut, he’ll be back. It won’t affect him.”
Borel hasn’t even given that possibility a thought.