Avery Patterson is prepared to take the road less traveled to the NFL.
The former Oregon free safety, who recovered from a serious knee injury to deliver a memorable senior season for Nick Aliotti and the Ducks, knows his name may not be called during the draft May 8-10.
Patterson, who performed for about 25 scouts during Oregon's pro timing day last Thursday, is projected as a seventh-round pick or an undrafted free agent.
"If I get into a (training) camp, that's all I can ask for is the same opportunity as everybody else," Patterson said. "Once we get into camp, they'll definitely be looking at the first-rounders to see what they can get their hands on. But if you can go out there and make plays, which is something I've been doing since I was a little kid, you'll make your way onto a roster."
Aliotti was Patterson's defensive coordinator and mentor for the last five years. Now he's a fan.
The two men share a close bond after growing up in the blue-collar East Bay city of Pittsburg, Calif., before making their way to Oregon.
"Avery is a tough-minded, competitive, smart football player," said Aliotti, who watched Patterson's workout at the Moshofsky Center up close and personal. "And he's a good football player. Unfortunately, he's 5-9. If he was 5-11, 6-feet, he'd be a slam dunk."
Patterson, who tore an ACL during the 2012 season, was third on Oregon's defense with 80 tackles in 2013. Linebacker Derrick Malone led the team with 105 tackles, and All-American cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu had 84.
Cornerback Terrance Mitchell, who decided to enter the NFL draft after his junior season, led the Ducks with five interceptions. Patterson tied Ekpre-Olomu for second with three picks, including his 37-yard interception return for a touchdown in the Alamo Bowl.
Since celebrating Oregon's 30-7 romp over Texas, which sent the affable Aliotti into retirement with a smile, Patterson has been preparing for a future in professional football during workouts at a training facility in California.
Patterson was not invited to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, which only served as added motivation leading into the pro day job interview.
"I've had a chip on my shoulder since high school," said Patterson, who was not highly rated by the recruiting services coming up as a cornerback. "I know with my height, that's something they're worried about.
"A lot of the combine and the postseason stuff kind of hinders on your junior season and how you are coming into your senior season. I had a major knee injury my junior year, so I think that hurt me going into my senior year.
"They weren't expecting me to do as well as I did my senior season. I think I opened some eyes this season, and now that it's all over they'll go back and watch some film and see that I'm a great player."
Oregon has certainly produced its share of skilled safeties in recent years.
Two of the first players to land lucrative free-agent deals this offseason were ex-Ducks T.J. Ward (2006-09) and Jairus Byrd (2006-08).
The Denver Broncos signed Ward to a four-year contract with $11 million guaranteed after he spent his first four years in the league with the Cleveland Browns. Patterson is represented by the same agent as Ward.
The New Orleans Saints signed Byrd to a six-year contract with $28 million guaranteed after he spent five seasons with the Buffalo Bills.
Two other former Ducks, John Boyett (Denver Broncos) and Eddie Pleasant (Houston Texans), are currently making their living playing safety in the NFL.
"I talked to (Ward) quite a bit. His father is real good friends with my dad. I have good contact with him being from the Bay Area," Patterson said. "I've played with all of those guys. They're real good friends to me and they tell me what it's going to be like at the next level and what I should be prepared for. I feel like I should be ready."
The scouts may not view Patterson as the next Ward or Byrd, but he received the same coaching they had at Oregon.
"What does help is they know John Neal does a great job with the secondary," Aliotti said of NFL scouts and executives. "Guys from Oregon come out ready to play."
Patterson had seven tackles, including three for loss, and returned an interception 34 yards to set up an Oregon touchdown for a 28-14 lead in the Ducks' 42-14 victory over UCLA.
"He's a really good football player, and everyone knows that," Neal said last season. "I've got some really good friends in the league that talk about him all the time. He's been such a productive player."
Patterson ran the 40-yard dash in 4.54 seconds for the scouts, which was just behind Mitchell's 4.52. He looked quick in most of the drills but said he benched 225 pounds 10 times after getting 15 reps up during training.
NFL general managers usually do all of their homework, which adds to Patterson's confidence an NFL job will be waiting at the end of the road.
"I know a lot of the scouts say my game film is something that is above and beyond a lot of the other players in this draft at the safety position," Patterson said. "They haven't really given me a lot of feedback on my film, but I know that's one of my pluses in my draft stock, being that I made a lot of plays in college."
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