As an eighth-grader and a prospective student at Brother Rice High School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, Larry Borom was “probably the biggest eighth-grader I’d ever seen,” David Sofran said.
At the time, Sofran coached the varsity football team at Brother Rice, just outside Detroit. That mammoth eighth-grader never had played a snap of football in his life. His dad was 6-foot-8 and played basketball. Young Larry Borom wanted to be a basketball player, too.
When Borom enrolled the following school year, Sofran sought him out.
“There’s a lot of 6-5 basketball guys,” Sofran recalled telling Borom. “Not a lot of 6-5, 300-pound guys that can run like you.”
Borom agreed to try out for football as a freshman at Brother Rice and the decision worked out well for him. Earlier this month, after a college career at Missouri, the Chicago Bears selected Borom in the fifth round of the NFL draft.
“[Sofran] connected with me right away like, ‘You need to try out,’” Borom said. “‘You can still play basketball and do what you want to do. But you need to give [football] a shot.’ I gave it a shot and I fell in love with it.”
Borom (6-foot-5, 322 pounds) has been an underdog all along the way. From his lack of youth football experience to his limited number of scholarship offers to NFL teams passing on him until the fifth round, Borom has plenty to motivate him.
He always has had one thing that not a lot of guys his size possess: athleticism. Even though he was big, all those years running up and down the basketball court kept him in shape.
“We were blessed to be able to have him come out for football and he was really raw,” Sofran said. “He was very talented. You could tell he had a big upside athletically, but he really worked on his craft and got stronger.”
In a way, Borom still is that raw, athletic talent. In three seasons at Missouri, he started only 19 games and only 17 at tackle [16 at right tackle, one at left tackle]. He left a year of eligibility on the table and Missouri offensive line coach Marcus Johnson believes he could’ve developed Borom into a day one or day two draft pick.
Johnson understands why Borom left for the NFL. Everyone has to make his own decision. When an NFL paycheck’s on the table, it’s hard to pass up. Johnson told Shaw Local that he believes Borom landed in the perfect spot with Bears offensive line coach Juan Castillo.
“So many coaches in that league are about X’s and O’s and not necessarily developing guys,” said Johnson, who played in the NFL from 2005 through 2009. “It starts with that [development] with Larry. So him being with a great offensive line coach in Juan, I think that he will get the most out of him.”
The Bears are hoping Johnson is right.
Sofran, now an assistant coach at Detroit Catholic Central, credited his lower-level coaches at Brother Rice with developing Borom. Borom played freshman football, then yo-yoed between JV and varsity as a sophomore. He had his breakout season as a junior.
Time in the weight room benefited Borom. Sofran saw him make huge gains between testing every three months.
“I remember seeing him [bench press] 225 and he kind of struggled with it,” Sofran said. “Then all the sudden the next time he tested it looked like he was lifting balloons on each side. It was really great progress. That’s when I was like, man, he’s going to be able to go to combines and do some things where he can show this athleticism in front of other people besides his high school coach.”
Borom comes from a working-class family. His mom was a waitress, and he helped look after his little sister. They didn’t have the means to travel the country for recruiting camps. Sofran believes that’s part of the reason why Borom was lightly recruited.
During the summer between Borom’s junior and senior seasons, Missouri saw Borom working out at a camp in the Detroit area. Days later, Mizzou offered him a scholarship. It proved to be Borom’s only FBS offer.
Sofran called it “frustrating” that Borom didn’t have any other big-time offers. FCS Eastern Kentucky offered him a spot and several other schools showed interest. But an offer from an SEC school is no joke, either.
“I try to tell our guys now, don’t be scholarship collectors,” Sofran said. “You’re only going to choose one.”
Mizzou was a no-brainer. Borom committed about a month after receiving the offer.
The next step
Johnson came to Mizzou in January 2020 after previously serving as the offensive line coach at Mississippi State. By that time, Borom had 11 starts in 2019 under his belt, but had moved around several positions. Johnson asked Borom where he felt most comfortable, and Borom said right tackle. He would spend the entire 2020 season at right tackle.
Borom was playing at 340 pounds in 2019. Johnson gives him credit because he had cut about 25 pounds by the time spring practice began.
“We got in three days of spring practice last year before [the pandemic] cut everything off and we had to shut down and send the kids home,” Johnson said. “The issue was when he went back home for four months, he ended up gaining all that weight back – and he wasn’t the only one. We had never been in that situation. I’d imagine a lot of us put on a lot of weight during that time.”
Borom had a fantastic 2020 season. When he missed two games due to an injury, the offense “felt that blow,” Johnson said.
In preparation for the draft, Borom cut weight again. He was down to 322, but is now – at the direction of Castillo – aiming for about 330. Castillo envisions Borom as a potential right tackle. Borom will go into training camp as the backup behind Germain Ifedi, but Castillo noted that Borom is the more athletic of the two.
“He’s a big man that’s athletic that played good competition [in college],” Castillo said. “We’re excited. We’re going to put him over there behind Germain and let him compete with Germain.”
Fellow rookie Teven Jenkins is likely to become the starting left tackle. Ifedi is under contract for one season, meaning Borom could be the right tackle of the future.
What he needs is experience, more strength and to keep that extra weight off. Borom has the size and athleticism of a top tackle prospect. He has nearly identical height and arm length as the draft’s top tackles Penei Sewell and Rashawn Slater. He performed similarly in the vertical jump and 40-yard dash at his pro day, while his 21 reps on the bench press trailed Sewell’s 30 and Slater’s 33 [Jenkins’ 36 reps was among the best].
With Castillo working with him and more time in the weight room, the goal is to develop him into a right tackle. If it doesn’t work out, for whatever reason, he could easily slide into a guard position.
“I still feel that I can dominate at tackle,” Borom said. “And that’s what I’m coming into the organization trying to work as that swing man and get in any way I can.”
While Jenkins clearly was a “play now” pick for the Bears, Borom was drafted, in part, on potential. Borom’s no stranger to that.
Potential is what Sofran saw in him all those years ago, it’s what Missouri saw in him, and now it’s what the Bears see.