2021 NFL Draft: This Citadel football and track star doesn’t need the NFL in 2021 but teams sure could use him

If you were looking for a comp for Citadel wide receiver Raleigh Webb, from a purely physical standpoint, it might be Carolina Panthers superstar running back Christian McCaffrey.

Webb is 6-foot-2, chiseled, carrying about 212 pounds easily and running a 40 in the 4.4s. He has elite track speed despite never having a true speed coach, and, playing in an option offense in which targets were in very short supply (The Citadel attempted just three passes in one of the final games of a quirky spring season), he is a very willing and able blocker in the run game. Physicality is not a problem, he has great hands, runs good routes and is as smart as they come — he is already working on a second master’s degree, which would be his fourth degree overall.

And if teams are doing their homework — despite there being no combine and Webb playing lower-level football — one of them will give this young man a call a week from Saturday and a shot at the next level. Because everything in Webb’s make-up and history and growth mindset portends the ability to play in the NFL at some point.

“I definitely do think I can,” Webb immediately responded when asked he believed he could play on Sundays. “I watch the NFL a decent amount and we had season tickets for the Falcons since was I younger and it’s always interested me. I see kids a lot smaller than the normal NFL player, and they are doing it and playing at a high level. I know they are extraordinarily good athletes, but I feel like if you put your mind to it, you can achieve that goal and achieve what you want to accomplish.”

I wouldn’t bet against this young man. He was a very accomplished swimmer as well, and could have been a collegiate standout in that sport had he stuck with it. But football became more of a calling — Webb was actually a center and the smallest kid on most of his teams in the youth ranks — and he opted to make that his full-time pursuit (while running track at The Citadel in the spring to stay in shape).

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“It came to point where I liked the team aspect of football more than I liked the individual aspect of swimming,” Webb told me. “That made me make the decision to continue to play football. I love both, and both are extremely hard sports, very physically taxing for sure, but I liked having a team and relying on my teammates to achieve something together.”

Webb was recruited as a defensive back and figured he would be playing safety as a freshman in 2017 … but that changed as soon as the coaching staff starting doing training and timing players. “The coaches said, ‘Hey you are too fast for safety; you’re going to play receiver,” Webb recounted.

That wasn’t exactly an invitation to glory, however. No diva receivers on this team. Not in this offense. Webb would catch just 77 balls in his college career to this point (he still has eligibility in the fall), with 30 of them coming in a 2019 season in which he also snagged 10 touchdowns (his 2019 tape — limited as it is — should have some teams licking their chops about what might come with more opportunities to exploit defenses deep in a robust passing attack).

The other three seasons he barely averaged a catch per game, and in his senior season (their 2020 fall season was cut short after four games and the season competed from February to April) the Bulldogs attempted just 116 passes (with suspect quarterback play), while running a whopping 721 times for 3,225 yards over 12 games (2-10).

All of which begs the question — with NCAA rules altered in the pandemic, this offense not kind to receivers and opportunities to transfer to a school that could showcase Webb’s skillset available, why stay there?

“Even some teammates and a few coaches and even some family members and friends asked me about it,” Webb said of transferring. “But you’ve got to know where your loyalty lies, and what you are looking for and things of that nature. And my biggest thing is — we built a family here at The Citadel, and we built a bond that you can’t build in eight month or half a year someplace else.”

Webb, whose father was an entrepreneur in Georgia, has a vest for knowledge and a passion for business — the wideout already has an MBA and two undergrad degrees. His academic pursuits were another reason to stay at school, and he ended up completing his undergrad pursuits in three years, then his MBA. And once COVID-19 impacted the football season, Webb found out he had to pick up another certificate to be eligible to play, so now he is pursuing a Master’s degree in Leadership, too.

By choosing not to opt out of the just-completed spring season, Webb remained eligible for selection in the upcoming draft, and also has the ability to return to school in the fall to play another year of football and work on that degree. Some agents have reached out to Webb, seeking to represent him if he does have an NFL future, but Webb said he has not had much contact directly from NFL teams (his season just ended last weekend). He finished with 17 catches (no other Bulldog had more than seven) for 282 yards (no one else cracked 100 receiving yards on the season) and four touchdowns, averaging 17 yards a catch and adding explosive runs against VMI and South Florida when given the chance to flourish in the run game.

It may be more likely that some organizations target him as an undrafted free agent, but Webb has more leverage than normal given that returning to school, playing a normal fall season and then harnessing his athletic abilities ahead of a combine and 2022 pro day might also put him in better stead for a pro career.

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“Signing like that definitely would be appealing,” Webb said, “but I would have to see that specific opportunity and see if it’s greater than pursuing another Master’s degree. And if it is, then that is definitely something that I would look into once that opportunity presented itself.”

Indeed, it’s always good to have options, and with a 2020 season that began all the way back in August finally complete, Webb is trying to exhale a bit and enjoy wherever this process goes next. He is excited to see what next weekend might bring in terms of NFL opportunities, and embracing the chance to continue to grow whether he lands in a rookie camp next month, or not.

“I can only benefit from it, to be honest,” Webb said. “If nothing happens, and I don’t get picked up by anyone or anything like that, then I still have football to play in the fall. I’m not giving up football either way, so I guess you could say I pretty excited either way. That’s the way I look at it. I can only benefit from it.”

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