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March 19, 2013

Blazers work out for NFL

19 teams attend VSU Pro Day

VALDOSTA — Call it a job interview. Call it an audition. Call it whatever you want, but for those in action, it was the biggest day of their football careers.

With scouts and coaches from 19 NFL teams on hand, seniors members from the 2012 national championship football team at Valdosta State University, along with two members of the 2011 team and five players from colleges and universities from throughout the state, participate in the largest Pro Day in Valdosta State football history.

“It is great,” Valdosta State head coach David Dean said. “Number one, to see these guys come back and to see the turnout of the NFL guys. There are 19 teams represented, a couple of offensive line coaches are here. That says a lot about our program and our kids.”

Among the Blazer NFL prospects that worked out Monday were offensive linemen Edmund Kugbila and Ryan Schraeder, and defenders Matt Pierce and Ryan Smith.

All four knew the importance of the workouts on Monday morning, which included bench press, broad jump and vertical jump testing in the weight room, along with the 40-yard dash,

3-cone drill and the 20-yard shuffle on the practice field.

“I mean it is a real big workout,” said Pierce, who has been training in the Atlanta area with former Atlanta Falcons cornerback David Irons. “I feel like I could have done a lot better, but, at the end of the day, being out in front of these scouts is always good. Hopefully they will see something they like.”

For Kugbila, he said the day was not as stressful as February’s NFL Combine, a large scouting platform where the nation’s top professional football prospects are invited to workout and interview with teams.

“It is not as a stressful, not at all,” said Kugbila, who admitted he has had interaction with nearly every NFL team this offseason. “(It’s nice) being back here with all the people that I know and that are here to support me.”

While Kugbila got the experience of participating in the NFL Combine last month, others didn’t, and Monday was their major chance to prove a worth in the NFL.

“Overall, I was pleased with the results,” Schraeder said. “As a competitor, I feel like I can always do better. But there were some things that I didn’t expect, but besides that, everything was what I expected it to be.”

Schraeder joined the Blazers prior to the 2011 season and was named an All-American left tackle both seasons. Since helping lead the Blazers to the national championship in December, he has been living in Gwinnett County, working at Competitive Edge Sports in Duluth. At CES, Schraeder has been working out with current and prospective players, including San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

“It’s been a grind and I have learned a lot in the last two months,” said Schraeder, who is a near lock to get at least a free agent contract into a training camp, largely because of his mammoth, yet quick, 6-foot-7 build.

“It’s been a great experience. I have no regrets….You realize a guy like (Kaepernick), he’s pretty far up there and he is still a person, down to Earth and will talk to anybody. You can tell what sets him a part from other guys is his work ethic.”

Of the NFL personnel represented Monday, which included a scout from the Atlanta Falcons, was New England Patriots assistant head coach/offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, a 31-year NFL coaching veteran and is responsible for coaching the players that keep future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady standing upright during games.

Scarnecchia worked both Kugbila and Schraeder for close to half-an-hour, working on various offensive line drills in front of the other scouts and personnel from throughout the league.

“It is crazy,” Kugbila said. “Me and Schraeder, we had a chance to talk to (Scarnecchia) before we began. We were asking him about Tom Brady, their offensive line, free agents and stuff. Having a guy with that type of knowledge, I’m just trying to soak it up.”

While he didn’t work out, former Lowndes Viking turned Florida State Seminole and Valdosta State Blazer, Greg Reid was in attendance Monday. Reid said he will workout today at Florida State’s Pro Day in Tallahassee.

On Monday, Reid was a spectator, supporting his former high school teammate and former West Georgia Wolves defensive back Kelley Dawsey, and his former VSU teammates.

Reid, who tore his ACL just prior to the start of the 2012 season, said his knee “feels good” and that he is just waiting for a chance to prove himself on the professional stage. He should be cleared for contact drills after a doctor’s appointment next month.

Dawsey was one of five players that attended Monday’s pro day that were not from VSU. Three players from Shorter University and one from LaGrange College also participated.

“I kind of hurt my hamstring a little bit, so I don’t think I got the 40 time I wanted,” said Dawsey, the former Lowndes Viking. “I still have the opportunity. I just need to keep grinding hard, and perform well from here on out.”

With other players flocking to VSU, Dean said it showed the state of the program and how successful the Blazers have been.

“A lot of these other schools don’t have pro days at their schools, so their coaches call us and ask us if they can get it,” Dean said. “Obviously we are going to help kids if we can, especially a guy like Kelley Dawsey, who is a local kid. As long as these NFL guys don’t mind them coming in to work out, we are going to provide them that opportunity.”

ith the draft still a month away, players, like Kugbila, will work out individually for teams, looking to improve their draft stock even further. The NFL Draft will be held April 25-27 in New York City.

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