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A small school's Pro day...

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Tue, Mar 29, 2005 Mike London column: Catawba's Samples, Lynch audition for the NFL -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The Carolina Panthers scout is stuck in Denver and can't make it to Catawba College. But clipboard-toting representatives of the Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, ...

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Old 03-29-2005, 03:46 PM   #1
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A small school's Pro day...

Tue, Mar 29, 2005

Mike London column: Catawba's Samples, Lynch audition for the NFL


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The Carolina Panthers scout is stuck in Denver and can't make it to Catawba College.

But clipboard-toting representatives of the Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, Miami Dolphins, Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers trudge around mushy Shuford Stadium on a peaceful Thursday morning. They are checking out prospects for the NFL draft that will be held April 23-24.

Scouts never know where gold might be discovered. Last year, the Pittsburgh Steelers took Ricardo Colclough, a cornerback from Catawba's rival Tusculum, with the 38th overall pick.

Just behind the stadium, tiny pre-schoolers bob and weave behind teachers costumed as Easter bunnies.



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On Kirkland Field, large young men with larger dreams audition for scouts that take turns looking breathless and bored.

Scouts record how many times each player can bench-press 225 pounds. Broad jumps are measured. Vertical jumps are marked. Players are timed in 40-yard dashes and shuttle drills.

The Saints scout notices defensive lineman Reggie Tucker's Patriots T-shirt, lifts an eyebrow and tries to lighten the mood.

"Patriots fan, huh?" he growls at Tucker.

"Yes, sir," Tucker says politely.

"Well, what have they done lately?" the scout responds, as everyone grins.

Eight former Indians sprint, lift, leap, pace and sweat under the watchful eyes of the scouts, Catawba head coach Chip Hester and several of his assistants.


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Safety Jonas Scott and tailback Rodney Wallace boast NFL physiques.

Exploding into the clouds from a standing start, Scott leaves blue fingerprints higher up a red brick wall than his friends. Scouts nod slightly at Scott's impressive vertical leap.

The massive Wallace cranks out bench-press reps like a lineman. Then he flies down the track like a wideout.

The scouts grunt and huddle briefly after Wallace's first 40-yard dash just to make sure their stopwatches are functioning properly.

The watches are working. It's just that Wallace, Catawba's all-time leading rusher, is swifter than any 230-pound human has a right to be.

Still, Wallace and Scott are just trying to climb onto the NFL radar screen. Quarterback Luke Samples and offensive lineman Daniel Lynch, are already there.

Samples and Lynch are longshots to get drafted — just a handful of Division II players will be — but the scouts know their names.

Samples might be the top D-II QB prospect in the world. On most lists, he's one of the top 35 QBs available.

But the math is simple and painful. Thirty-two teams. Seven rounds. That's 224 guys. Chances are, fewer than 20 QBs will know the thrill of hearing Mel Kiper Jr. discuss their pluses and minuses on ESPN.


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Samples has leadership qualities and an accurate arm, but famous signal-callers like California's Aaron Rodgers and Utah's Alex Smith, who will be drafted in the first few minutes, have probably never heard of Samples, Catawba or the South Atlantic Conference.

Elkin native Samples (6-foot-3, 235 pounds) rewrote Catawba's record book — 744 completions, 9,650 yards, 74 TDs. A four-year starter, Pilot Mountain native Lynch (6-3, 310) earned enough plaques to fill a bank vault.

Both played in the Cactus Bowl in Kingsville, Texas, the biggest Division II all-star game. Samples was MVP for the winning East, connecting on 14 of 23 passes for 192 yards.

"I was disappointed with my week of practice out there," Samples says. "The game went well, though, even with a real basic offense."

Besides being smart and physical, Samples owns a sense of humor. He and Lynch jump to the front of the line for the 40-yard dashes.

"We want to set the bar high," Samples declares, as his faster ex-teammates chuckle.

Samples isn't a burner. The scouts don't reveal his times because they don't volunteer any information for public consumption.

Samples shrugs.

"Those guys always hold their cards close, but I can tell you I ran a 4.9," he says with a smile. "I'm the most consistent 40-timer in history. Straight line, around curves, on grass, on the track, it doesn't matter.

"Yeah, I'm a 4.9. Hopefully, they're looking for football players, not track stars."

Lynch isn't a track star, either, but he's in fantastic shape. He's flexible and surprisingly quick for a 310-pounder. The scouts notice.

"For three months solid, I prepared for this," Lynch says. "My agent tells me there's about a 10-percent chance I'll be drafted. The thing is to get into someone's camp. Maybe get on a practice squad. And there's NFL Europe."


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Lynch, who improved steadily under the guiding hand of former Catawba assistant Mike Bloomgren, is ranked as one the elite D-II O-line prospects, so he may get that chance.

The work Lynch has done over the last few months could make the difference.

"I used to be at the worst end on all the numbers for prospects," he said. "Now my numbers are in the middle of the pack. Middle of the pack is good for me because I've always been a lot better football player than an athlete.

"There are plenty of guys with great times and numbers that can't play football."

Lynch bench-presses 225 pounds 32 times. That's exceptional, even though Tucker matches him and Wallace (31) comes close.

"Thirty-two is the same as I was doing during school," says Lynch. "But I was pleased. I was lifting my butt up some to get 32 during school. With the scouts here, we weren't allowed do that."

Both Lynch and Samples believe the game film provided to scouts will carry far greater weight than their times and leaps.

"Film is where they can see if you can play football or not," insists Samples.

Samples wants to throw for the scouts — after all, that's what quarterbacks do — and star wideout Corey Ready arrives to run patterns for him.

But the scouts decide the field is too soft to get a read on Samples' arm, and they're also in a hurry. There are more planes to catch, more prospects to see.

Samples takes the disappointment in stride.

"There's nothing to do now but wait and see who else might come here — or maybe someone will want me to come there," he says. "Until April 23, I'll wait by the phone.

"You hope for an opportunity. If it comes, you jump at it."



[Edited on 29/3/2005 by JOESAM2002]
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Old 03-30-2005, 10:14 AM   #2
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A small school's Pro day...

You know-this is the way I hope we go later in the draft...instead of getting big name school guys with flaws in their game-late in the draft start drafting guys from smaller schools with more to prove.
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