Jets play host to hopefuls at NFL Regional Combine

FLORHAM PARK, NJ — While players like Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III showcased their first-round pedigree in Indianapolis in front of the bright lights and NFL evaluators, players at the Atlantic Health Jets practice facility on Saturday were just looking to get noticed in a lot quieter setting.

Over 225 entrants, each from different backgrounds, gathered at the Jets practice facility in Florham Park, NJ with hope of igniting a spark to their hopeful pro careers at the NFL Regional Combine.

Florham Park was just one of the many regional combines that will be held before the Super Regional Combine in Detroit on March 30-31. Regional Combine director, Stephen Austin, said the event combines “on-field scouting and cutting edge technology to produce an amazingly effective prospect evaluation tool for the benefit of our clubs and aspiring players.”

“We have these regional combines that serve as qualifiers that might be from small schools or might have been injured. Guys that might have fallen through the cracks,” Austin said. “So we hold all these regional combines and take the best of the best and invite them out to the Super Regional Combine in Detroit. That’s where all the team’s come to evaluate them and see if they’d like to sign them.”

With over 750 collegiate programs in the country and $2-3 million dedicated to each pro team’s personnel budget, there’s only so much time and money that can be spread out. The beauty of the regional combine, Austin says, is the freedom it gives NFL teams to focus on the top talent while professional evaluators sort through the “best of the rest”.

Most were from smaller FBS schools like Stony Brook University and UMass-Amherst. Others were formerly employed by NFL teams before suffering injuries and getting cut, like former Jets players Shawn Crable and Kenwin Cummings.

For players like Cummings and Crable, it’s one more shot at their dream job.

Jets owner Woody Johnson allowed the NFL to use the Atlantic Health Jets training facility in Florham Park, NJ for athletes competing at the Regional Combine. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

Cummings, an inside linebacker, was signed by the Jets as an undrafted free agent out of Wingate in 2008. A practice squad player for the majority of his time with the team, Cummings was activated in November 2009. He made his debut in the NFL as a special teams player in the team’s Wildcard playoff match-up with the Cincinnati Bengals. The Jets waived him on October 22, 2010 and was later signed to the Dallas Cowboys’ practice squad on December 10, 2010 before eventually getting released.

Crable has an even more interesting story. As an outside linebacker for Michigan, being named to two All-Big Ten teams, he was drafted 78th overall by the New England Patriots in 2008 after a solid showing in the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. He was up and down from the team’s practice squad and injured reserve list, suffering from a groin injury, before being waived by the Patriots on November 16, 2010. The Jets signed Crable to their practice squad just three days later only to be cut later in the season.

Now after being out of the NFL for two full seasons, Crable is humbled by the layoff from the league and hungry for another opportunity.

“I’m trying to get back to the NFL. I spent a lot of time on the couch the last year,” Crable said. “I’m trying to show them I’m not injured. I got older, but I didn’t get slower or anything. I think the best thing about it is I’m still here. I’m still kicking. And I can still play football with the best.”

Having the experience of the Pro Combine in Indianapolis in 2008 and the regional Combine in Baltimore on Febuary 11, Crable seemed at ease going through the drills —  one of the few in a building filled the to brim with a feeling of mounting pressure. He could be seen laughing with current Jets defensive end, Marcus Dixon, who came out to show support to his former teammates and Hampton peers, and helping youngsters on the proper form for each drill.

But behind his jovial aura lied a quiet confidence with a greater understanding of what it means to be an NFL player.

“[The time off] shows you the values in life. It tells you about what’s important in life and what your priorities are. It told me how to conduct myself once you get the opportunity. How to handle finances. The time off got me more spiritually and Godly. I got to spend a lot more time with my kids. I learned a lot about myself as a man. With the time off I understand that this is more than just being a 23-year-old with money,” he said.

Want to hear more from Wesley about the NFL? Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/Wesley_Sykes.

2 Responses to “Jets play host to hopefuls at NFL Regional Combine”

  1. Robert butler Says:

    I thought the NFL regional was a great opportunity
    for aspiring atheletes to chase their dreams but
    I’m shocked at Micheal Butlers results
    someone who has been clocked in the low 4.3 range
    and will be disputing his actual times ran last week
    hopefully they made a mistake in timing or gave him
    someone elses time being that another butler ran
    right after him waiting see his footage of running
    his 40 & shuttle that he has consistently been
    hitting in 3.9 range hopefully the Jets Gaints Eagles Panthers
    had there watches going…mistake made should be corrected

  2. Alpha Koroma Says:

    Robert; the combine is a great opportunity for athletes to gain more exposure, but only being allowed to do half of the drills that coaches and scouts scout you and make decisions off of is not fair. I attended the combine and feel I had a very strong performance for scouts and and NFL personnel on hand, but I didn’t like that fact we didn’t do everything that guys in Indy do. How can you really scout us and compare us to the guys in Indy if we don’t do the same thing. I look at it as let us do the same thing as the guys in Indy. Their the big shots put our results up against theirs. I honestly was happy with the opportunity despite everything else I gave it everything out there motivated guys and just reminded my self and who eva was in my group one of us got to make it. I’ve done the Elite Combine before and made it to the national one. I don’t think Ill be going to Detroit this year but that just pushes me to continue to train and get in to the NFL because in my heart this is all I ever wanted. I give Mike my support and blessings on his journey maybe one day our paths will cross in the NFL. Good luck and GOD Bless.