COSTA MESA — Trey Pipkins’ only full college offer came from Division-II program Sioux Falls in South Dakota.
Five years later, Pipkins could be tasked with covering Philip Rivers’ blind side.
The 6-foot-7, 307-pound left tackle was drafted by the Chargers with the 91st pick in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft on Friday.
“I’m not sure that’s completely set in, honestly,” Pipkins said about protecting Rivers. “That’s just an unbelievable honor and something that I can learn a lot from. I’m excited to get there and just soak in the advice.”
It’s unlikely that Pipkins will get to protect Rivers in a meaningful game for the upcoming season with Russell Okung penciled in as the starting left tackle. But Chargers general manager Tom Telesco sees Pipkins as a project with plenty of upside.
“It’s hard to find tackles that are tall, long and have really good feet,” Telesco said of Pipkins. “He has a lot of traits that we can develop. It’s going to take him some time. We have a good group for him to learn from, too.”
The third-round selection came as a shock to many, even to Pipkins, who was expecting to go in the fourth round or later.
Pipkins made 22 starts the past two seasons at Sioux Falls and was named a Division-II All-American last season. The Apple Valley, Minnesota, native is the first player from Sioux Falls to attend the NFL Scouting Combine.
Telesco didn’t say at his news conference if he would consider using Pipkins as a right tackle for the upcoming season. Sam Tevi struggled for most of the 2018 season as the Chargers’ starting right tackle.
“He has left tackle ability that’s another reason why he was of interest to us,” Telesco said. “They’re hard to find.”
Pipkins said he molds his game after New Orleans Saints Pro Bowl left tackle Terron Armstead.
“I had a formal interview with the Chargers at the combine, but I didn’t have a visit with them or anything like that with them after that,” Pipkins said. “I thought I did well in my interview at the combine, but I didn’t hear anything back or anything else from them. I wasn’t really sure how I did, but apparently I made a good enough impression on them.”