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[February 27, 2013]
Ex-Lobos chase dreams of NFL
Feb 27, 2013 (Albuquerque Journal - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- They call it Pro Day, though it's a statistical improbability that few if any of the University of New Mexico's departing football seniors will ever play football for pay.
Don't tell Ben Hilgart the odds. He's giving those former Lobos his best shot, so they can give it theirs.
On March 7, scouts from several National Football League teams will be in Albuquerque to run several former Lobos through the same drills other prospective pros have executed the past six days at the NFL combine in Indianapolis.
They'll be timed in the 40-yard dash, the three-cone drill and the 5-by-10-by-5-yard shuttle. They'll have their efforts measured in the standing vertical jump and standing long jump. The scouts will be counting as the former Lobos strain to bench-press 225 pounds for as many repetitions as possible.
There could be a lot riding on the results.
"I just hope to come out and give the best performance I can give, personally, as an athlete," says former UNM offensive tackle Korian Chambers. "That's all I can wish for or hope for." Chambers and former Lobos safety Freddy Young are confident Hilgart, UNM's secondyear strength-and-conditioning coach, is preparing them to the utmost.
"Coach Hilgart knows our bodies better than we do," Young says. "He's giving us the best chance we have, and we're out here maximizing the opportunity that we've been presented with." It is believed this is the first year the UNM coaching staff is actively participating in the departing seniors' workouts for Pro Day, at least to the extent that Hilgart is doing so.
Hilgart, who came to UNM from Arizona State, says he always did so at ASU and always will at UNM.
"I know these guys have only been with me here for a year, but they're my guys," he says. "We tell our guys on scholarship here, when you sign as a Lobo you're a Lobo for life." Tuesday, Hilgart put several former Lobos through a regimen specifically designed to help them prepare for Pro Day. It's a far different routine than the workouts the players did in preparation for the 2012 season.
"It's more drill-oriented, specific work for specific drills," Chambers says. "So, it's not really football, it's more like track practice, something like that." How much do the combine/ Pro Day drills really have to do with football Hilgart discounts somewhat the 40-yard dash and the bench press, though he believes the standing vertical leap is a good measure of explosiveness, and the cone drill and the shuttle are valid reflections of a player's agility.
Regardless, two years ago, a so-so Pro Day performance by former UNM offensive tackle Byron Bell might have been the reason he wasn't drafted that April. Last year, a subpar 40-yard dash might have prevented former Lobo linebacker Carmen Messina from hearing his name called.
Last season, Bell was the Carolina Panthers' starting offensive right tackle. Messina made the Detroit Lions' practice squad and recently signed a new contract.
Still, here's the bottom line. If the NFL says those drills are important, they are.
"They probably even recognize that some of their tests are maybe outdated," Hilgart says. "But, again, the big thing is for them to be able to compare year to year and athlete to athlete. So, they keep those tests the same." Chambers has signed with player agent Brian Hamilton, who two years ago helped Bell get a free-agent contract with Carolina. Young is represented by Travis Bell, a California agent who last year got former UNM defensive end Jaymar Latchison into camp with the Green Bay Packers.
Hilgart likes both players' talent and potential.
Chambers, 6-foot-6 and 300 pounds, played two years for UNM after transferring from Arizona Western College.
"He's a guy I wish I'd had for five years and could have really seen him through from a freshman," Hilgart says. "... He has a long way physically to go still, but he has a ton of upside." Young, 6-1 and 200, was in the UNM program for five years. If he makes it to the NFL, he'd be a second-generation pro; his father, Fredd, played seven years in the league as a linebacker after starring in college at New Mexico State.
"(Young) has done a great job of being coachable, specific to the drills that we have," Hilgart says. "He's a guy that, if everything comes together on game day, so to speak, he could test very well." Other former Lobos Hilgart is preparing for Pro Day include quarterback B.R. Holbrook, defensive tackle Reggie Ellis, linebackers Joe Stoner and Joseph Harris, cornerback DeShawn Mills and kicker-punter Greg Rivara. More Lobos Running back Xavier Madrid's hard work has been rewarded with a scholarship D2 ___ (c)2013 the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.) Visit the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.) at www.abqjournal.com Distributed by MCT Information Services
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