NFL DRAFT: Danville's Julian Pearl ready to begin his NFL career

Apr. 25—CHAMPAIGN — Imagine having the whole world watching as you go from an unemployed college student to an exclusive member of the National Football League.

That's what former Danville standout Julian Pearl is hoping to have happen this weekend with the 2024 NFL Draft.

The 6-foot-6, 315-pound offensive lineman from the University of Illinois could become the first-ever Viking chosen in the draft and join former Danville standouts Justin March and Trent Sherfield in the NFL.

"It definitely adds more fuel, keeps me going, especially just when times get hard," said Pearl of his hometown support. "I know it's people looking at me and looking up to me, and it means the world to me to be able to inspire somebody else."

But the process of landing this 'dream' job hasn't been easy for Pearl, who didn't get a chance to workout at the Draft Combine because of a leg injury.

"I would never like to be in that situation again," said Pearl last week after a workout for NFL teams at Illinois. "It just made me reflect on life lessons and control what you can. You really have to lean on that."

So, how did that workout go for Pearl?

"I'm a little tired. It was a long workout. It's been a long interview," he said. "I just wanted to get some times up and they finally got to see me move. I'm excited to focus on my position and maybe not the sprints, finally getting the chance to workout for O-line."

Overall, how would he describe the process from the NFL Combine in February to the NFL Draft, which starts tonight and continues to Saturday?

"It was a very strenuous job interview," he said. "They don't leave a box unchecked. They get a feel for you and you get a feel for them.

"I hate to say it buy my major (here at Illinois) was football and this is the job I was interviewing for. I do have a sociology degree, but I fully put everything into this. I have a lot of chips on the table."

Pearl says the NFL teams that he has had talks with during the process like his athleticism and his measurables, like arm length. He is the 21st ranked offensive lineman in athleticism, according to, with a 7-foot-1 wing span.

But, the same profile states he has below average play strength. That's why Pearl has spent the past few months and nearly every waking hour working out.

"I want to be in the best shape as possible," Pearl said. "I want to go into rookie mini camp as healthy as possible and as strong as possible."

But, Pearl enjoys this challenge.

"It's kind of hard to look at it as work," he said. "I'm just playing football, trying to get better. I feel like that carry me into this next phrase of the process.

"I've got to see it through. You have to be the same person every day, seven days a week, 24 hours a day. That's what it takes, fully invested in your goal."

Does he have any big plans for this weekend's draft?

"I don't even know which day the draft is, I've just been working toward the next day," he said.

The first round of the NFL Draft, picks 1-32, is set for tonight in Detroit at 7 p.m. The second and third rounds, picks 33-100, will be Friday night, with the final four rounds, picks 101-257 set for Saturday afternoon.

Even if Pearl isn't selected, he figures to get signed as an undrafted free agent. That's the route the March and Sherfield took to the NFL in the past 10 years.

Former Danville standout Caleb Griffin, a kicker at the University of Illinois for the past three seasons, will also attempt to make the NFL through the undrafted status.