March 25, 2009
(10:27 a.m.): At the UC Pro Day, nearly every NFL team was represented by a scout or two (or, in the Bengals case, five) to see players like Connor Barwin, Mike Mickens, Brandon Underwood, DeAngelo Smith and Trevor Canfield. These were guys from the NFL Combine who carried some buzz with them and had another chance to wow potential future employers.
But what about the other seniors who were there, the guys with almost no chance to get drafted? Guys like Lamonte Nelms and Corey Smith and Dustin Grutza? They know their chances are slim – heck, they’re just hoping to get invited to an NFL camp as a free agent – but they can’t give up on their dream. No matter how unlikely it will come true.
I remember last season when tight end Earnest Jackson had one of the more impressive Pro Days of anybody out there. Anybody know what Jackson is doing these days? I know it’s not playing in the NFL. Now, sometimes a player like Haruki Nakamura will impress one team, and that squad will not let him go. That’s what happened with the Baltimore Ravens. But that’s more the exception than the rule. The unnoticed senior Bearcats, however, know this: they just need to impress one person to have a chance at the big time.
“I have a hard road, because I didn’t get to play much this year because of injury,” Grutza said. “I tried to show them as much as I could. That I’m fully recovered from my injury and that I’m able to go out there and compete.”
Grutza actually had a pretty good workout – he had a 4.08 in the 20-yard shuttle and a 6.87 in the 3-cone drill (both were among the best marks of anybody that day) – but his road is tougher than most. The Ravens could look at Nakamura’s game film and come away impressed. An NFL team could rewind the season and see how Nelms played at defensive end. There isn’t much celluloid of Grutza the past two seasons.
“They don’t have tape of me, of what I did all this year,” Grutza said. “Coming back from the ankle injury, I wanted to show them that there was no problem there and I’m still out there. I didn’t go anywhere just because I was hurt.”
Grutza actually might have a chance to be invited to an NFL camp and compete for the third-quarterback position. Then, if he makes a roster, who knows what can happen? Linebacker Corey Smith would love that opportunity. But he knows his options are limited. Especially without an invite to the NFL Combine, the UC Pro Day was the only chance he got to work out for scouts. Quite a bit of pressure.
“It’s a relief,” Corey Smith said when he was finished. “This is what we’ve been spending endless hours all of our lives for. All of it was for today.
“It’s an eye-opener. You realize this might be the only opportunity you get. You have the opportunity to open somebody’s eyes. I’m not going to blow it.”
Nelms, meanwhile, has tried to improve his stock by showing his versatility. He’s been working out at Ignition in Mason with Canfield, Khalil El-Amin, Corey Smith and Mickens, and he participated in individual drills for linebacker and defensive line. He said he’s been talking to the Miami Dolphins about becoming a linebacker in their 3-4 scheme.
“If I would have gone to another DI school, I might have been a linebacker straight up,” Nelms said. “But here, the linebackers are 20 pounds lighter and a few inches shorter. I had to play defensive end.”
Hey, you do what you can. Grutza knows that – even if, for him, it’s the NFL or bust.
“I don’t know, I’ll have to weigh the options and see what it looks like from here,” Grutza said when asked if he would consider playing professionally elsewhere. “I’m definitely going to try to get in with the NFL and get on a team. I feel like if I can get a shot, I’ll go in there and compete hard in camp. I’ve had to do that many times here already. I’ll be in there, competing as always.”
FYI, an interesting story by 1530 Homer’s C. Trent Rosecrans on UC baseball player Mike Spina. Sounds like Spina has an outside chance to break the school record for career home runs, held by some dude named Kevin Youkilis. Which would be amazing because Spina would have done in two seasons what it took the Red Sox first baseman four years to accomplish.
An interesting blog post from Dayton Daily News writer and Katzonthecats favorite Chick “Stud” Ludwig. He’s discussing whether it’s worth it for NFL teams to draft local players. Mostly, Chick is talking about Ohio State players, but with Connor Barwin and a bunch of other UC players looking to get drafted, it certainly could apply to the Bearcats as well.