When the Arizona State football season started, few outside the program knew Brandon Aiyuk was on the precipice of becoming a breakout star.
Those within it had been long warned by coach Herm Edwards.
"Herm, he saw something in me from the first day I got on campus," Aiyuk said. "He used to tell the defense, 'That guy is going to play in the NFL.' I'm a junior college guy who has been at the university for one week, and I've got DBs telling me, 'Herm said you were going to play in the NFL.' That was huge for my confidence."
Aiyuk lived up to the billing, garnering first-round buzz at the NFL Scouting combine last week after an impressive senior season. If he does go that high, the Sun Devils will have pass-catchers taken among the top 32 picks for the second year in a row, after N'Keal Harry accomplished the feat in 2019.
There were questions about Arizona State's ability to replace Harry heading into the season, but Aiyuk eased those fears quickly. He had seven catches for 196 yards and three touchdowns in an October game against Washington and finished the year with 65 receptions for 1,192 yards and eight scores.
"As soon as N'Keal left, I understood what time it was," Aiyuk said.
Aiyuk ran a 4.50-second 40-yard dash on Thursday night and registered a 40-inch vertical leap. NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah is one of his biggest admirers, recently tabbing Aiyuk as his No. 19 prospect in the draft.
"I love Brandon Aiyuk from Arizona State," Jeremiah said on a conference call. "I think he's a stud. He's tough, competitive, run-after-catch guy. Needs a little polish, but can return as well."
Aiyuk is under 6-feet tall, but benefits from an 80-inch wingspan, which is an off-the-charts measurement for his size. He knows there is a direct benefit to that type of length on the field.
"Playing above the rim," Aiyuk said. "People have questions about being able to go get the jump balls, but with the vertical of mine and my wingspan, I feel like it's no different than somebody being 6-3, 6-4."
Aiyuk had his arms measured for the first time at the Senior Bowl in January.
"I knew they were long, but I never really knew how long they were," he said.
Aiyuk said he learned a lot from Harry when they were teammates at Arizona State, and has reached out for advice during the pre-draft process.
While there is the natural connection, they are different players. Harry is bigger and more physical, while Aiyuk is shiftier.
Aiyuk made a name for himself quickly with the Sun Devils, and now will get a chance to distinguish himself at the professional level.
"Oftentimes they liked to say back at ASU, 'N'Keal this, N'Keal that," Arizona State running back Eno Benjamin said. "And he didn't like that. He wanted to be Brandon Aiyuk. I think that's something you guys are going to see."