NFL Draft 2023: TCU’s Steve Avila more than one of OL’s top prospects, reveals which teams have shown interest

TCU offensive lineman Steve Avila is like a number of players in the 2023 NFL Draft who are projected as first-round fringe picks or surefire second-round picks: He’s a consensus All-American. He kept his quarterback, runner-up in the Heisman Trophy Max Duganclean and relaxed throughout the season, allowing just 10 snaps and no sacks on 515 pass-blocking snaps.

However, few offensive linemen are named by their head coach as their team’s best leader, especially on a team with a Heisman runner-up at quarterback. Yet Horned Frogs head coach Sonny Dykes did just that, calling Avila the runner-up national’s “main guy” in the leadership department.

“When you look at last year, you just say what the strength of last year’s team was, and really, really, that was leadership,” Dykes said. “I think we had good players and the guys performed well, and we played well in critical situations. But what I was most pleased with was just the leadership of our team.

“And for me Steve was the main guy, he really was. He was from day one, he just took responsibility – when things were bad and when things were good. In the beginning, you know , we had trouble understanding the [new] culture and all of a sudden Steve starts to shine a little bit, you start to see him step into his leadership situations, and you start to see how this team responds to him. So he was obviously a hell of a player. He was a consensus All-American. This speaks for itself. But at the same time, the guy he was as a player, he was more valuable as a leader. Just a great will to win. Great constant effort, emotionally stable, facing success and adversity alike. Everything great leaders do. It was like that for us. A hell of a player, but I think the biggest void will be that leadership void.”

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Avila’s leadership has evolved over the years as he simply said yes to any challenge the Horned Frogs coaching staff gave him early on. Case and point: Avila starting in a new role for the first time just days after returning from a COVID-19-related absence.

“It’s changed over the years being here, but I feel like TCU for me has developed me as a man and a player,” Avila said. “So before you know it, I felt like I was more of a guy leading by example. I came back on a Thursday [in the 2020 season], and my right tackle had COVID. I was out [of COVID] and I was like, ‘Okay, maybe I won’t play.’ And then I get a call like, ‘Hey, [right tackle Andrew Coker] a COVID, can you play?’ I was like, ‘Who?’ He was like, ‘Andrew.’ I was like, ‘Oh my God, I have to play good tackle.’ Being a freshman here, I played [a little] good incoming tackle, so that’s something I just had to tap into again, and I’m glad I did. I feel like I played a really good game there. I’m glad I did that.”

During TCU’s 2022 college football playoff run, Avila became a more vocal leader in the same way he moved around the offensive line from center to left guard.

“Last year I had to become more vocal, even though I’m a cool, laid back person,” Avila said. “A specific example is during one of our practices at fall camp. We didn’t have a great practice and I was tired of losing. I’ve been here for years. So I came after practice and I left. I left, and I feel like after that, I gained a lot of respect from my teammates. I feel like it’s because of the reason for which we had a lot of different leaders in the team.

Avila is also a leader in his position in terms of pro potential. His quick swing off the line of scrimmage is one of the best in the country among linemen in this year’s draft at 6-foot-3 and 332 pounds. He has started at every offensive line position except left tackle in his TCU career.

“I never started at left tackle but I’ve played everywhere else, but yeah, I feel like I can do it,” Avila said when asked about playing left tackle or any offensive line position. “I feel like when you feel like you’re playing guard, you can also play tackle. It’s just the angles that really change.”

Avila demonstrated that versatility, dominating in the Senior Bowl while lining up center and guard:

Avila also stopped Michigan defensive tackle Mazi Smith, one of the top defensive tackle prospects in the upcoming draft, in the Horned Frogs’ CFP semifinal win over the Wolverines:

Avila is not just a pass blocker; he’s also fierce as a run blocker, seen here fending off a Texas Tech defensive tackle last season.

After TCU’s pro day in late March, Avila said he had at least five teams set up visits to meet him while other franchises are also in the process of setting up meetings.

“Yeah, so I have about five visits: I’ll meet the Cowboys, Washington, Pittsburgh, Detroit and Arizona,” Avila said. “So those are really the teams that I would say are showing interest at the moment. I’ve had a few meetings with a few other teams, but right now those are the ones I can report.”

One of the biggest questions interested NFL teams have asked Avila is where he plans to play at the next level. It’s a question Avila is reluctant to answer, not wanting to paint herself one way or the other. But when he takes the time to think about it, the answer is clear.

“There are teams that hit the table and say, ‘You have to pick one. [position], what do you choose? “, Avila said. “And right now, I guess now, in this case, I always say left guard only because I just finished a season where I had the best season of my career. I received all these accolades, and I don’t take anything away from my ability to play in the center, because I know I can do it. I did it in the Senior Bowl, but right now I’d say left guard.”

Whatever position Avila ends up playing, the NFL team that selects him in the 2023 draft will have someone who loves the job. He’s someone who would play Super Smash Brothers tournaments with friends in college as Mario, a character that lacks some of the super-powered strengths that the other options have. Wherever Avila ends up, he’ll keep doing what he does in Super Smash Bros. and on the line of scrimmage: keep winning.

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