Flying High at the Combine: Eagles Shine in Indianapolis

After a two-month hiatus, football season triumphantly returns to the Crowned Hilltop. Unfortunately, the spotlight shines away from Shea tailgating and the “We are BC” chants that serenade Alumni Stadium--everything a typical SuperFan loves about the fall.

This season focuses solely on football and football alone.

It’s time for the NFL Draft--the only thing more inconsistent than the Weather Channel's forecasts for Boston this winter. Naturally, an event ranking Tom Brady 199th in anything deserves irrelevancy. While names such as Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning widen Mel Kiper’s smile, busts such as Jamarcus Russell cause Al Davis to roll in his grave.

This year is different. Why? Without a single Eagle drafted in 2013, the 2014 NFL draft measures player development within the BC football program. The evaluation began this past weekend at the NFL Combine.

The NFL combine serves as the ultimate job interview. College athletes partake in a seven-day tryout, flashing every ounce of athleticism in an attempt to raise the brows of the pickiest scouts. No intangible skill goes unnoticed. While coaches sit on sidelines salivating over 40 yard dash times, a quarter-inch difference in hand size has the potential to separate a first round pick from a third round pick, costing a player millions. Forget hand size. Waking up on the wrong side of the bed means selling insurance for the rest of one’s life. No pressure, right?

Only a select group of players receive invites to participate in the annual event held at Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium. This year, Andre Williams, Matt Patchan, Kasim Edebali, Kaleb Ramsey and Kevin Pierre-Louis represented Boston College at the Combine. However, the performances of Williams, Pierre-Louis, Patchan and even Ramsey made scouts rub their eyes in disbelief.

Andre Williams, fresh off his Heisman-caliber season, had much to prove after underwhelming performances against Syracuse and Arizona, both games on the national stage of ESPN. Having recently recovered from an injury that kept the All-American running back from participating in the Senior Bowl, Andre faced the ceaseless scrutiny of scouts. The power back needed to post a low 40-yard dash time to prove harmony of speed with his massive 220-pound frame.

Like he did this past fall, Andre simply ducked his head and let his legs do the talking. Surprising nobody here at BC, Williams’ impressive 4.56 second forty-yard dash time offered only a glimpse of his brilliance. By the end of the combine, the running back recorded top three performances in shuttle runs and broad jumps, enough to finally turn the critics into crickets. The solid performance makes Andre Williams a realistic third or second round pick, a catalyst for any NFL offense on third-and-short.

The performances of linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis and offensive tackle Matt Patchan made headlines too. Pierre-Louis, a former All-ACC first team honoree, seemed undersized for the linebacker position at (only?) 225 pounds. To truly appreciate his athleticism, coaches needed to look beyond what meets the eye. Pierre-Louis’ 40-yard dash of 4.51 seconds topped all other linebackers at the combine, displaying a rare, blazing speed likened to that of Terrell Suggs.

If Pierre-Louis turned heads, Matt Patchan broke necks. The offensive tackle led all players at his position in the vertical jump while clocking a 4.81 second 40-yard dash. Did I mention the man weighs 302 pounds? Patchan, an All-ACC second-team honoree during his senior season, separated himself from the other linemen with his performance. Teams will think twice before passing over his name during April’s draft.

And who could forget about Kaleb Ramsey? Despite modest results in the speed drills and relative obscurity before the Combine, the defensive end led all defensive linemen with 36 bench press reps of 225 pounds. Even if Kaleb goes undrafted, he’s on speed dial for anyone looking to win a fight.

Once the combine concludes this Thursday, what next?

These same Eagles engage in pro-day sessions, having interested scouts flock to BC for any second looks. On May 8, the fun really begins with the NFL draft. Before you know it, spring practices begin as a prelude to the dog days of summer.

Yes, football season has finally returned, but did it actually ever end?

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Mike Kotsopoulos