By: Barry Barnes, Founder
After traveling through the wilderness of doubt, discouragement, injuries and rejection to reach the field of dreams of the NFL, 58 athletes from the platform of the NFL Regional Combine made their visions a reality.
As of Sept. 7, 36 of the 59 will be on active rosters, the most since the Shield’s involvement of the program in 2012. In 2014, 22 members from the RC were on active rosters.
Collectively, defensive players and kicking specialists from the NFL Regional Combine are excelling in the NFL.
What makes this 2015 occasion so dynamic is the eventual usage of offensive talent from the platform. Conjointly with special teams, only six offensive skilled players experienced action in down settings. Fast forwarding to this season, 14 players will be suited up for offensive support and they are expected to contribute to more than just special teams backing.
ACTIVE ROSTER BY POSITION:
Tight ends – 3; Ifeanyi Momah (Arizona Cardinals), Brandon Williams (Carolina Panthers), Jerome Cunningham (New York Giants)
Wide receivers – 6; Adam Thielen (Minnesota Vikings), Seth Roberts (Oakland Raiders), Brian Tyms (New England Patriots), B.J. Daniels (Seattle Seahawks), Tyler Murphy (Pittsburgh Steelers), Chris Harper (Patriots)
Running backs – 1; Jonathan Grimes (Houston Texans)
Full backs – 1; Will Johnson (Steelers)
Offensive linemen – 3; Denzelle Good (Indianapolis Colts), Alejandro Villanueva (Steelers), Demetrius Rhaney (St. Louis Rams)
Defensive backs – 10; Kemal Ishmael (Atlanta Falcons), Robenson Therezie (Falcons), Will Hill (Baltimore Ravens), Tray Walker (Ravens), Chris Banjo (Green Bay Packers), Darryl Morris (Texans), Denzel Rice (Philadelphia Eagles), Antwon Blake (Steelers), Robert Golden (Steelers), Cody Davis (Rams)
Linebackers – 3; Joplo Bartu (Falcons), Brandon Copeland (Detroit Lions), Rufus Johnson (Patriots)
Defensive linemen – 4; Christo Bilukidi (Ravens), Stefan Charles (Buffalo Bills), Davon Coleman (Dallas Cowboys), Benson Mayowa (Raiders)
Kickers – 3; Jordan Gay (Bills), Brandon McManus), Greg Zuerlein (Rams)
Punter – 2; Johnny Hekker (Rams), Jordan Berry (Steelers)
PRACTICE SQUAD BY POSITION:
Tight ends – 3; Matt Lengel (Cincinnati Bengals), Tevin Westbrook (Tennessee Titans), Scott Simonson (Panthers)
Wide receivers – 4; Duron Carter (Colts), Shakim Phillips (Steelers), Donteea Dye (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Quinton Dunbar (Washington Redskins)
Running backs – 1; Dominique Williams (Vikings)
Offensive linemen – 3; William Poehls (Titans), David Foucault (Panthers), Ulrick John (Colts)
Defensive backs – 1; Jordan Dangerfield (Steelers)
Linebackers – 3; Danny Mason (Denver Broncos), Julian Howsare (New York Jets), Josh McNary (Colts)
Defensive linemen – 3; Rakim Cox (Panthers), Will Pericak (Seahawks), Lawrence Okoye (Cardinals)
Injured/Reserve – 5
Tight end Brandon Williams has been a project for the Carolina Panthers as they used the 6-4, 250-pound talent on special teams for coverage and returns. Williams showed legitimate promise last season and he looks to expand his role this season.
Ifeanyi Momah switched from being a wide receiver to be a tight end. After recovering from injuries and having an outstanding showing at the first annual Veteran Combine in March, Boston College’s finest returns to the NFL as a member of the Arizona Cardinals.
Unfortunately, 6-7, 255-pound tight end sustained a torn meniscus, which will shut his down for the season.
Tight end Jerome Cunningham looks to make his mark for the New York Giants.
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen has quietly carried the torch for the RC offensively as he exceled in special teams and took advantage of each opportunity when positioned on the line of scrimmage. This year, the product of Minnesota State-Mankato applied himself during the offseason for the next level.
“I’m making sure that I’m consistent on offense,” said Thielen humbly. “I’m bigger, faster and stronger and I’m sure I can play on a high level. I run a ton of routes. I made sure I’m as sharp as possible on my routes and be consistent in that.”
The 2015 NFL campaign should be Seth Roberts coming out party for the Oakland Raiders, following his breakout performance during the preseason. The talented wide receiver from West Alabama was a part of the Black Hole’s practice squad last season.
When healthy, wide receiver Brian Tyms could a valuable acquisition for the New England Patriots. After his spotlighted effort in the Tampa-held sessions for the 2012 NFL Regional Combine, Tyms bounced around the league to find a home with the Pats.
The Seattle Seahawks may have a secret weapon in B.J. Daniels. Daniels is listed as a wide receiver, but can field punts and kickoffs. The Florida native was drafted as a quarterback by the San Francisco 49ers in the seventh round (237-overall) in the 2013 NFL Draft.
The 49ers waived Daniels early in the 2013 NFL season and the Seahawks claimed him off waivers. He backed up Super Bowl winning signal caller Russell Wilson as the third quarterback for the past two seasons. The 5-11, 217-pound playmaker will finally be unleashed this season.
The 2015 NFL Regional Combine sessions produced 11 players for the league, and eight plays on the offense side of the ball. Of the select group, five are on active rosters, including three athletes who expected to contribute early and often.
Tyler Murphy came to the Pittsburgh Steelers as a quarterback. However, he was converted to a wide receiver and had a solid showing during the preseason.
The player to watch out for will be New England Patriots wide receiver Chris Harper. Harper was criticized for leaving school early after being the most productive wideout in the University of California’s history in 35 games. Frustrated for not being selected to attend the 2015 NFL National Scouting Combine, Harper destroyed the workouts at the Denver-held RC and his Pro Day at Cal.
Harper was one of the top rookies during the preseason and the world may witness greatness in the making in Week 1 when the Patriots take on the Steelers.
Running back Jonathan Grimes will help relieve the Houston Texans’ backfield issue until Arian Foster returns. Nevertheless, substituting carries with Alfred Blue will provide the league with one of the best ball carrying combos.
The long drive for Denzelle Good from South Carolina to Owings Mills, MD for the Baltimore-held NFL Regional Combine in February paid off as he was drafted by the Colts in the seventh round (255-overall) due to his powerful workout. Standing 6-5, 340-pounds, Good could be the Colts been looking, especially to propel their run support.
Clearly, to achieve the opportunity of playing in the NFL, changing positions to see the field is a no-brainer. Just ask Alejandro Villanueva.
Villanueva attended the RC trials in Atlanta to ultimately earn an invite to the NFL Super Regional Combine in Detroit in 2014, as a linebacker. He signed with the Eagles, but was released. The Steelers claimed Villanueva off waivers and converted him to a tight end. The juggernaut from Army spent the 2014 season on the practice squad.
Due to the necessities of providing depth for the offensive line, Villanueva put on some pounds and gracefully transitioned to tackle. He was rock solid in the preseason and the Steelers may look to use him for goal line and short yard situations.
Demetrius Rhaney is healthy after spending last season on the IR.
The pioneers of the NFL Regional Combine have proven the platform can produce players for the big stage. They may not be household names now, but the 2015 NFL season will be the dawn of a new day and gems will surface from the ashes to shine like never before – especially offensively.
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