NEW MEXICO ELITE FOOTBALL

Second-tier NFL Combine picking up notoriety

By EFN Staff
Writer
Published: 02/22/2015

Just over 1,000 miles to the west of Indianapolis a second-tier NFL Combine is taking place this weekend at the Denver Bronco’s Training Complex. Some 135 former collegiate players and NFL hopefuls paid $150 to go through a mini-combine getting their measurables, speed, strength, and agility measured all in one day.

With Indianapolis hosting the perceived top 325 former college players, what happens to the best of the rest? Some players can fall back on a Pro Day at their college but not every program is big enough to host a Pro Day that would attract enough NFL scouts to make such an event worth while. The void left is now being filled by regional or super regional combines for the uninvited.

The combine may lack the pizzazz of Indy but make no mistake the regional combines are a worthwhile event for the former players. Last year 20 players taking part in the regional camps made NFL opening rosters with another 28 making practice squads, and another seven placed on reserve lists. Some of the regional winners from last year include Missouri Western State kicker Greg Zuerlein who caught on with the Rams, Tennessee State center Demetrius Rhaney who also got picked up by the Rams, and former Georgia State tackle John Ulrick with the Colts.

While all of the top scouts from all 32 NFL teams are in Indianapolis some scouts are sent to the regional combines and all activities are filmed so teams absent from the event can still see how a prospect performed after the fact.

What scouts missed on Saturday was a 47-inch vertical by Eastern Michigan 5-foot 10-inch cornerback Willie Creear. Creear out leaped the previous combine mark, set in Indianapolis, by former Ohio State cornerback Donald Washington in 2009. Washington posted a jump of 45-inches. Creear admitted he’s normally in the 40 to 41-inch range but credited his trainer for the extra spring in his legs.

Former Florida Gators wide receiver turned South Florida cornerback Chris Dunkley had a great combine admitting, “I feel like I did great today.”

Dunkley is not the only former Power Five Conference player to finish his career at a smaller school needing to take advantage of a regional combine. On Saturday Jared Koster, a former UCLA linebacker who finished his career at New Mexico Highlands, participated as well. Koster stated he felt “blessed” to be able to come out and show his stuff for NFL scouts after not being invited to the combine in Indy.

Most fans want to know the hard numbers of the testing but at this regional numbers like 40-yard dash times will not be made available to the players or the public until Monday. Part of the delay is using a new laser timing system in an attempt to get a more accurate run clocked.

The combines run by Troy Vincent and Matt Burke, now have three NFL regional combines in the books Miami (Feb. 7), Houston (Feb. 14), and Denver (Feb. 21) with three remaining, Baltimore (Feb. 28), Chicago (March 7 and March 8).

Strong performances at a regional can lead to the Super Regional, an invite only event taking place at the Phoenix Cardinals complex in Arizona on March 21.

Photo credit: timesunion.com; Former Eastern Michigan cornerback Willie Creear participates in drills at the Denver NFL Regional Combine.