By: Barry Barnes, Founder/Senior Writer
Punter John Hekker kicked his way through the NFL Regional Combine in 2012 from the New York/New Jersey workouts to the St. Louis Rams active roster. From there, he booted himself to Pro Bowl honors for the 2013 season. Hekker is one of the many players who the NFL opened the door to for a chance to make a career on the gridiron, after being recognize through the drafting process.
And after nearly 4,000 participants who registered for the NFL Regional Combine, 61 players were invited to team camps – at some capacity.
The NFL has always been serious about discovering unknown talent. But since 2011, the NFL has added a platform which the undiscovered and overlooked can present themselves and showcase their skills.
Out of all the participants, 243 were invited to the NFL Super Regional Combine, which was held in Detroit in April. From there, 61 NFL hopefuls received phone calls that may change their lives.
Among the 32 NFL teams, and dating back to early June, only the five teams, the Cincinnati Bengals, Houston Texans, Buffalo Bills, New York Giants and Arizona Cardinals, did not have a player from the Regional Combine at a try-out or mini-camp.
However, the Minnesota Vikings had the most invited with six, including the prize of the Super Regional Combine in defensive end Rakim Cox from Villanova.
Last season at the SRC, 214 players were invited, and among those, 91 athletes signed a NFL contract, including the four that were drafted.
The NFL is totally behind the wheel and is driving the workouts. The NFL Regional Combine is picking up steam as teams around league are starting to take the workouts seriously. In addition, two players, tackle Ulrick John (Georgia State University) and center Demetrius Rhaney (Tennessee State) were drafted in seventh round of the 2014 NFL Draft. John at the 232rd overall pick and Rhaney with the 250-overall selection.
The teams and who were invited:
Atlanta Falcons – wide receiver Lonnie Outlaw (Miles)
Baltimore Ravens -cornerbacks Kenneth Gilstrap (Middle Tennessee) and Joseph Rankin (Morgan State), safety Dustin Wharton (Georgetown), linebacker Terrance Bullitt (Texas Tech).
Carolina Panthers – tight end Joel Murphy (Baker), tackle David Foucault (Montreal, Canada).
Cleveland Browns – linebacker Christo Lisika (Southern Nazarene).
Chicago Bears – defensive tackle Brandon Sparrow (Marshall), full back Jeremiah Moeller (Texas-San Antonio), tight end Dustin Greenwell (St. Francis, Ill).
Dallas Cowboys – cornerback Dashaun Phillips (Tarleton State), defensive end Davon Coleman (Arizona State), long snapper Ryan Williams (Texas State).
Denver Broncos – cornerback Paul Webster (Minnesota Crookston), safety Jordan Sullen (Tulane).
Detroit Lions – linebacker Justin Jackson (Wake Forest).
Green Bay Packers – quarterback Chase Rettig (Boston
Indianapolis Colts – John, defensive tackle Nnamdi Obukwelu (Harvard), full back Stephen Campbell (West Virginia Wesleyan), tight end Cameron White (Hillsdale).
Jacksonville Jaguars – defensive tackle Kayvon Sherrill (Florida Atlantic), wide receiver Terrance Lewis (Alcorn State), punter Chad Zinchini (Tennessee Tech).
Kansas City Chiefs – linebacker Ben Johnson (Tennessee-Martin), kicker Trey Barrow (Missouri), safety Greg Heban (Indiana), who was invited to the Bears camp first.
Miami Dolphins – linebacker Rodney Lamar (Northern Michigan), tight end Darion Howard (Florida Atlantic).
Minnesota Vikings – Cox, wide receiver Donte Foster (Ohio), tackle Jon Caspers (Northern State, S.D.), safety Jason Carlson (University Minnesota Duluth), cornerback Randall Carroll (Sul Ross State), defensive tackle Roland Johnson (Minnesota).
New England Patriots – wide receiver Derrick Johnson (Maine), tight end Justin Jones (East Carolina), Nu’Keese Richardson (Pikeville), did not attend the SRC.
New Orleans Saints – defensive end Lawrence Virgil (Valdosta State), wide receiver Brandon Green (Grand Valley State), tight end Jerome Cunningham (Southern Connecticut State), quarterback Logan Kilgore (Middle Tennessee).
New York Jets – kicker David Van Voris (Adams State).
Oakland Raiders – wide receiver Darius Millines (Colorado State-Pueblo).
Philadelphia Eagles – wide receiver Johnathan Bryant (Georgia Southern), tight end Alejandro Villanueva (USMA).
Pittsburgh Steelers – tight end Eric Waters (Missouri)
St.Louis Rams – Rhaney
San Diego Chargers – safety Randy Greenwood (John Carroll).
San Francisco 49ers – tight end Kevin Greene (Southern California).
Seattle Seahawks – safety John Ojo (Florida A&M), linebacker Horace Miller (Texas-El Paso), running back Demitrius Bronson (Eastern Washington), quarterback DeNarius McGhee (Montana State), was invited to Ravens and Steelers camp, punter Jeff Sauer (Chicago) drawn interest.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – tight end Gavin Ellis (Jacksonville State).
Tennessee Titans – guard William Poehls (Montana).
Washington Redskins – defensive tackle Xavier Boatright (Presbyterian), safeties Justin Blake (Hampton) and Akeem Davis (University of Memphis), Mike Box (Indiana, PA).
Now, several players with NFL experience have used the RC as a vehicle to return to the league like guard Lanier Coleman (Packers), linebacker Billy Boyko (Raiders) and running backs Stephfon Green (Lions) and Kendial Lawrence (Cowboys) to name a few.
Although making it to the Super Regional Combine is a huge boost for exposure, it’s not a total lost for those who didn’t.
Full back Danny Triplett was not invited to the SRC, participated in the workouts held in Baltimore. However, according to the product of Northern Iowa, he did gain some interest from several clubs.
Over 400 undrafted players were invited to workout for teams for the last two months, and among them, some will be the next Adam Vinatieri, Arian Foster, Wes Welker, Priest Holmes and Antonio Gates.
Clearly, the NFL teams are not done yet with signing more untapped talent to make their squad deeper towards a Super Bowl, like the Seahawks who had three players on their roster from the NFL Regional Combine.
Only time will tell, and the NFL will be at the forefront to chronicle these journeys.
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