At 6 feet 6 inches and 310 pounds, Doniel Gambrell has all the physical characteristics for an offensive lineman but it is his heart and work ethic that will land him on a team. Gambrell was recruited out of Cleveland Glenville High to play college ball at Eastern Michigan University. But he left EMU for Cleveland to be with his now-wife but then-girlfriend when she informed him she was pregnant. He left and infant son, Levi, soon followed. He held down a grueling, full time job at a factory to make a living in Cleveland until 2012 when Glenville coach Ted Ginn, Sr., helped him land in the football program at Notre Dame College (a Division II school in Euclid, a suburb of Cleveland). Ted Ginn, Sr., has been instrumental throughout Cambrell’s life and had a vision for him as an athlete when Gambrell was a skinny, fast growing string bean in high school.
Once he landed at Notre Dame, he held down a third shift job at Rose-Mary Center (a residential assisted living facility) during football season to support his family. Gambrell’s title is at Rose-Mary is Direct Support Professional, which means he assists residents in daily tasks such as laundry, preparing meals and brushing teeth. Because of his extraordinary patience and ability to connect with the residents, he most often is assigned to a wing that includes sometimes aggressive adolescent boys.
Why is family so important to Doniel? It is probably because his father was murdered when Doniel was thirteen years old. Doniel Sr. was shot in the chest during a robbery. According to news reports at the time, a witness said he knocked on a door screaming that he had been robbed. He was taken the hospital, where he died about four hours later but not before his wife and Doniel’s mother got there. “He was still alive when my mom got to the hospital,” Gambrell said, “but he died, and she told us when she got back home.” By all reports, “Uncle Donny” is still missed by those who knew him.
Daniel, Jr. now has two more children, a proud legacy as family man, and a chance to crack an NFL roster with the New Orleans Saints. Perhaps it is all of this and more that earned him the nickname “Tree.”
Meet Undrafted Rookie Doniel Gambrell
Doniel had been seen by draft experts as a 6th, 7th or priority free agent.
He spent three seasons playing right tackle for Notre Dame. He has an NFL frame and very long arms which he uses with his first-step quickness on the line of scrimmage. He has good lateral movement along the line. Although he has the necessary footwork to play tackle, it is assumed he would fit better as a guard. He can get to the second level as a smooth glider and has no problem mirroring and finishing in space. He has NFL-caliber feet. He can play from a two-point or a three-point stance with good hand placement and an initial punch. Scouts loved him for his maturity and leadership skills.
Where can he improve? He can move a defender so wide, it will open an inside lane. His knowledge of offensive schemes needs to increase and his instincts need to be honed to play against veteran defenders. He can struggle to redirect a defender back inside to shut down inside moves. Willingness to defend is excitable and can make him rush to the edge in the face of a blitz. Will have to improve the consistency of his leverage to hold off defenders and will need to improve hip snap to snag ball carriers in the run game. The weight room will help him develop his physical capabilities but the coach who helps him to improve his technical capabilities may very well see him on the field on Sundays.
He will be the first player ever to be be drafted from small school Norte Dame College. Doniel has show his best effort at the Norte Dame Falcon’s practices which are attended almost daily by NFL scouts. The Division II Falcons are in just their fifth year of football and have never had a winning record, much less a player scouted by an NFL team.
Doniel Gambrell turned down an offer from the Cleveland Browns and the Green Bay Packers to sign with the New Orleans Saints shortly after the 2015 NFL Draft on Saturday.
“I already knew at the beginning of the draft that New Orleans was one of the top teams that was pushing for me and was interested,” said Gambrell a Glenville graduate. “Toward the end of the draft, New Orleans was calling, the Browns were calling and Green Bay was calling.
“The Browns were really interested. They were upset when I told them I signed with New Orleans. It was hard to say no, but at the same time it looks like my best opportunity was going to be the New Orleans.”
Gambrell and his agent, Peter Schaffer of Denver, said New Orleans has more opportunity at offensive guard. The Saints did not draft a guard. The Browns have a rising star in Joe Bitonio at left guard and spent one of their first-round picks on Florida State offensive lineman Cameron Irving, who could play guard. They also knew the Saints guards were getting older.
“We’re very, very excited for where he wound up,” Schaffer said. “We never looked back and said, what if (about the draft). Doniel is prepared to work hard and his future is bright.”
Gambrell said his wife, Shardai, ran up the stairs screaming with joy when he decided to sign with New Orleans.