T.J. Linta’s Path To The Draft

T.J. Linta’s Path To The Draft
Reading Time: 6 minutes.

When Lamar Jackson made the decision to head to the 2018 NFL Draft, he did so with his mum representing his business needs. As teams struggled to set up meetings with the young quarterback, the decision was derided around the league. As quarterback T.J. Linta embarks on his path to the draft, he does so with his father taking care of business. However, don’t expect the same difficulty. His father his renowned NFL agent, Joe Linta.

“If he was in to karate, or he was a singer, or an artist or something, I wouldn’t be his agent. There’s one thing in the world that if he did it, I would be his agent, and that’s football and that’s what he does…there was no way that I wasn’t going to do that because no one was going to give him the effort that I was going to give him” says Joe, when I ask him if there was any doubt that he would represent TJ going in to this process.

“It was never a thought in my mind that I was going to go with anyone else. I don’t think anyone else would dare talk to me because of him” laughs T.J. “I’m good with it…It probably makes it easier, we talk a lot, he’s a role model in my life…it’s easy to talk about things, oh you’re working out with this team, this day, and what do you want for dinner?! It’s an interesting thing and I’m happy to go through with it because he knows best. I’m excited”.

Introducing T.J. Linta…

Joe was a role model from the very start. As a young kid growing up in Branford, Connecticut football was always around Thomas Linta. His dad was a coach at both youth and high school levels and he talked passionately about his football influences and inspirations.

“Growing up, we had a lot of football in my family. My dad was my coach at high school, he coached me a little bit in youth football when I was younger. I started playing there when I was 10 or 12 years old. He’s been a big part of my life football wise, the entire time, and I’ve been pretty much playing ever since. Football’s been a huge part of my family’s life…I played there [Hamden Hall High School] my last three years of High School and he was my coach there. We had some good times there”.

Hamden Hall High School…

T.J. had a highly successful career at Hamden Hall. As the starting quarterback he wracked up over 9000 total yards, and 109 total touchdowns. He guided the team to their first ever appearance in a New England Bowl game. Along the way, he received such honours as 1st Team All-New England, NUC All-American and NUC Most Valuable Quarterback. With an impressive football resume in his hand T.J. had a number of options for pursuing his future.

“Had some Ivy League offers, and some Division IA offers, Tulane and Rice. I knew that I wanted to go to the Ivy League from a pretty early point in my high school career as I valued education a lot. I knew I could play Division I level in the Ivy League and play good football as well. We narrowed it down quickly. It got down to Yale and Brown, and Brown was just a better fit for me. They threw the ball more and ran my type of offence, and showed me love so I chose there…it was good decision for me”.

From Brown to Green…

T.J. Linta. Photo Credit: wagnerathletics.com

After four years at Brown, including two seasons as the starting quarterback, and a victory over his dad’s former college Yale, T.J’s football journey took another direction. He transferred to Wagner Football in the North East Conference of the FCS. It was another example of Joe’s influence and guidance for his sons football career.

“There was a coaching change at Brown. Some of the coaches left, and I was uncertain of where it was going to go. So, I started looking for places and Wagner came about through a connection that my dad had, one of the coaches at Wagner, and it was just a perfect fit for me. They needed a quarterback and I fit in to the offensive style that they had and I was excited to go there”.

The things that he achieved whilst at Wagner are some of the proudest achievements of his football career to date.

“Coming to Wagner, in the summer, learning a new offence and getting the respect of team mates and becoming a starter in a matter of a couple of months was definitely the biggest challenge and the biggest achievement. I was really proud of myself for being able to do that. It gave me a lot of confidence in myself that I can do anything that I set my mind to”.

Big Names and Bowl Games…

The move to Wagner, although a move to the FCS level, allowed T.J. to put his skill set on display to a bigger audience. In his first game as a Seahawk, he faced off against Syracuse. He described it as “the biggest game as far as most people watching, biggest stadium, best opponent” of his career. His performance over the season led him to the Tropical Bowl, the FCS All-Star game.

“Those days were awesome for me. They allowed to play in front of a lot of scouts. The All-Star games were a great thing for me to go to, and I had a lot of fun at them too. There were a couple of people that I knew from the recruiting process and in the college football community, which is a pretty small community, coming and being able to play with them and reconnect with them, also whilst playing in front of scouts and being able to show what I can do for the NFL. It was a good experience, and I really enjoyed it”.

Testing Times…

The opportunities to showcase what he can do in front of NFL personnel have come thick and fast. Since the Tropical Bowl he has had his pro day, local workout days and the regional combine in Kansas City. The regional combine gives around 75 prospects who weren’t invited to Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine an opportunity to work out for teams.

“It was great. I’d never been out to Kansas City before and seen their facility, it was awesome to see that. I threw the ball really well, did some good testing, and got the notice of some scouts so it was definitely a beneficial thing. Andy Reid called my Dad afterwards and said “How do you have a son who can throw like that” joking with him. It was a good experience…every team had someone representing them there”.

The Underdog Role…

Every team had a presence at the regional combine, and it seems a number of teams are interested. As a small school prospect, does T.J. see the path to the draft to be harder?

“I really like the underdog role. It’s kind of what I’ve been for a while being at the IAA level, being at the FCS level, but I don’t think it’s too much harder. My idea is that, from the people that I’ve talked to, is that if you’re good enough you’ll make it. If someone likes you, you’re going to make it. So, it only takes one person and I’m just excited that I have a good agent to get my name out there”.

The sentiment is certainly one shared with his father and agent.

“There’s thirty two teams, and all we’re looking for is one…if thirty one teams think he sucks that’s OK as long as one team likes him!”.

Joe is certainly working hard to get T.J’s name out there.

“I just want to get him a good opportunity and have a chance somewhere. He’s good enough to get a chance, you know…one of his selling points is he got the second highest score in the Wunderlic test…I study his film like an agent or a scout and at the end of the year as I evaluated him, I was like, if he wasn’t my son I would sign him. I’m not going to be apologetic when I call up somebody and I’m selling a quarterback who happens to be my son. Good is good, it is what it is”.

Following Flacco?

“He’s got the toughness, the arm strength, the accuracy, the brains. What he doesn’t have is Lamar Jackson’s speed but you look at some of the best quarterbacks in the league and they would struggle to run 5.0 in the 40”.

He may not have Lamar Jackson’s speed but he certainly has a better agent than him. Interestingly it is Jackson’s former team mate,and another of Joe Linta’s clients, that T.J. likens himself to as a pro comparison.

“I wanna say Joe Flacco, because he’s a calm guy who, in the face of adversity, keeps a level head and he has a strong arm, which I like to think I also have. He’s a solid pro style quarterback…I’m a pro style quarterback, I’m a drop back and read a defence and deliver the ball type of quarterback. I’m not really a read option type, Lamar Jackson type guy but I’m the type of player that is suited to pro style offences”.

It’s three years since Joe Linta negotiated Joe Flacco’s big money contract with Baltimore. In a month’s time, he could be negotiating T.J. Linta’s first NFL contract.

Let’s hope so.

Photo Credit: nflblitz.com

Huge thanks to both T.J. and Joe Linta for taking the time to talk to me. JL Sports is Joe’s agency and they look after a number of NFL players.

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