Monday, February 25, 2013

Combine Confidential: Heart issue could cost Lotulelei

By John McMullen

Star Lotulelei was expecting to wow onlookers at the NFL Scouting Combine over the weekend.

Instead the Utah product, who is the top-ranked player at his position on most
team's draft boards, didn't even work out after it was revealed he is dealing
with a potentially serious heart condition, one which could result in a draft
day slide for Lotulelei as possible suitors deal with durability and longevity

You knew something was wrong on Sunday when Lotulelei was a no-show and ESPN's
Chris Mortensen first reported the news, finding out that Lotulelei's left
ventricle is pumping at 44 percent efficiency compared to the normal range of
55 to 70 percent.

The issue is serious enough that officials at the combine asked Lotulelei to
shut it down until he is evaluated by a specialist sometime this week in Salt
Lake City.

On the surface, this looks like a disaster for Lotulelei, who could have been a
top-five selection in April's draft.

Take a step back, however, and understand this diagnosis could have short-
circuited a potential tragedy and it's certainly the best thing for Lotulelei
in the long run.

If doctors can solve the issue and clear Lotulelei, who is still interviewing
with teams in Indianapolis, he will still have plenty of time to impress scouts
at Utah's pro day in March.


For a while, Te'o-ing surpassed Tebow-ing in Internet fame, but that will
probably be the extent of the damage done to the king of the "Catfish."

That and the ribbing Manti Te'o will receive in an NFL locker room.

Te'o tried to shift the focus from the now-infamous hoax involving his fake
girlfriend back to football on Saturday.

Te'o, of course, claims he was led to believe a girlfriend he had met online,
Lennay Kekua, was a real person who died from cancer. In reality, a man named
Ronaiah Tuiasosopo created Kekua out of thin air.

"It's definitely embarrassing," Te'o said at his highly anticipated press
conference. "When you walk into the grocery store and you get people giving
double takes and they're sitting there staring at you, it's definitely
embarrassing. I guess its part of the process, part of the journey. It's only
going to make me stronger and it definitely has."

The Heisman Trophy runner-up was barraged by questions on the hoax and how NFL
teams have reacted to the story.

"I understand people have questions, but I've answered everything I could. For
me, I'd really like to talk about football," Te'o said.

"I've said all I need to say about that. How I'm handling it going forward is
doing what I'm doing, focusing on the moment, focusing on football and the

At the time of his press conference on Saturday, Te'o had only met with two
teams -- the Houston Texans and Green Bay Packers -- but had meetings
scheduled with 18 others, all looking for answers.

"Teams want to be able to trust their player," he said. "You don't want
to invest in somebody you can't trust."

At the end of the day, NFL teams have dealt with far worse when it comes to
talented young men, so if Te'o proves he has NFL-caliber athleticism at the
combine or Notre Dame's pro day, Lennay Kekua will be quickly forgotten, at
least as far as the NFL is concerned.

"What I bring to the table is a lot of heart, a lot of energy and somebody
that works hard," Te'o said. "Somebody who hates to lose. I always say, 'I
hate losing more than I love to win.'"

Another possible hiccup for Te'O surfaced on Sunday when it was revealed he
will not take part in the bench press workout due to a a stinger in his right


Perhaps nothing is more important to NFL scouts than speed. That's why the 40-
yard dash gets so much attention in Indy.

Since the turn of the century, the fastest player at the combine was LSU
receiver Trindon Holliday (Denver Broncos) back in 2010, who registered an
amazing 4.21 seconds, according to

Jacoby Ford (Clemson, Oakland Raiders) was a tick behind the same year at
4.22. However, so-called "official times"  aren't released to teams until a
week or 10 days after the event and Ford was eventually downgraded to 4.28
while Holliday tumbled all the way to 4.34, giving the actual best time to
Tennessee Titans star Chris Johnson, who ran a 4.24 in 2008.

A couple of skill players threatened whatever record you consider the real
deal on Sunday with former Olympian Marquise Goodwin, the University of Texas
wide receiver, clocking a blazing 4.27 mark in the morning, and slight Auburn
running back Onterio McCalebb matching Holliday with an eye-popping 4.21 on
his second attempt in the afternoon.

When the NFL Network showed a "simulcam" overlaying McCalebb and Goodwin,
however, it was Goodwin crossing the finish line first and McCalebb's time was
eventually downed to 4.34, making him "only" the second-fastest this year,
along with wide receivers Tavon Austin of West Virginia and Ryan Swope of
Texas A&M.

Perhaps the most impressive 40-yard sprint, though, was a pedestrian 4.65, and
that's because it was put together by 6-foot-5, 306 pound Arkansas-
Pine Bluff offensive lineman Terron Armstead.

Armstead didn't get lucky, either, since his second chance came in at 4.71,
unheard of speed for a "Big Ugly." His 4.65 was better than Wisconsin running
back Montae Ball (4.66), Notre Dame star Theo Riddick (4.68) and Stanford
standout Stepfan Taylor (4.76).

In fact, Armstead did better than 15 different running backs, every quarterback
save West Virginia's Geno Smith and Florida State's E.J. Manuel, and even
bested three receivers.

"I've been blessed with a unique skill-set," Armstead said. "I'm extremely
light on my feet for a big guy, I have to say. It's a blessing."

Most have projected Armstead as a third- or fourth-round pick, but if his
footwork cam match his speed, he will begin moving north on most draft boards
rather quickly.

"They all know about my athleticism. They know (the combine) should help me
out a lot -- will help me out a lot," he said. "I've trained hard for this, so
it's be relaxed and go out and do what you know how to do."

Oklahoma tackle Lane Johnson, a likely first-rounder, also opened some eyes by
running a 4.72, while Armstead (34 1/2 inches) and Johnson (34) each posted the
best vertical leap numbers among the O-linemen.


Onterio McCalebb, Auburn (4.34)

Knile Davis, Arkansas (4.37)

Kerwynn Williams, Utah State (4.48)

Jonathan Franklin, UCLA (4.49)

Michael Ford, LSU (4.50)


Marquise Goodwin, Texas (4.27)

Tavon Austin, West Virginia (4.34)

Ryan Swope, Texas A&M (4.34)

Kenny Stills, Oklahoma (4.38)

Josh Boyce, TCU (4.38)


Geno Smith, West Virginia (4.59)

E.J. Manuel, Florida State (4.65)

Matt Scott, Arizona (4.69)

MarQueis Gray, Minnesota (4.73)

Colby Cameron, Louisiana Tech (4.78)

FASTEST 40-YARD TIMES, (2000-2012) - Best time (Announced time)

4.21 (4.34) - Trindon Holliday, (WR), LSU - 2010

4.22 (4.28) - Jacoby Ford, (WR), Clemson - 2010

4.24 (4.24) - Chris Johnson, (RB), East Carolina - 2008

4.25 (4.30) - Darrius Heyward-Bey, (WR), Maryland - 2009

4.25 (4.28) - Demarcus Van Dyke, (CB), Miami - 2011

4.26 (4.28) - Jerome Mathis, (WR), Hampton - 2005

4.27 (4.37) - C.J. Spiller, (RB), Clemson - 2010

4.27 (4.27) - Stanford Routt, (CB), Houston - 2005

4.28 (4.33) - Mike Wallace, (WR), Mississippi - 2009

4.28 (4.36) - Stephen Hill, (WR), Georgia Tech - 2012


Maybe Bill Kazmaier and Mark Henry aren't at the scouting combine, but plenty
of strong guys are.

Ohio University guard Eric Herman, Wake forest fullback Tommy Bohanon and
Georgia linebacker Cornelius Washington proved to be eating the most spinach,
each putting up 225 pounds 36 times. North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper, a
sure-fire first-round pick, was right behind, doing 35 reps.

All of those strongmen, however, weren't even in hailing distance of
Stephen Paea's (Oregon State, Chicago) amazing 49 reps in 2011.

Most 225-Pound Bench Reps (2000-2012)

49 - Stephen Paea, (DT), Oregon State - 2011

45 - Mitch Petrus, (OG), Arkansas - 2010

45 - Mike Kudla, (DE), Ohio State - 2006

45 - Leif Larsen, (DT), Texas-El Paso - 2000

44 - Dontari Poe, (DT), Memphis - 2012

44 - Brodrick Bunkley, (DT), Florida State - 2006

44 - Jeff Owens, (DT), Georgia - 2010

43 - Scott Young, (OG), BYU - 2005

42 - Isaac Sopoaga, (DT), Hawaii - 2004

42 - Tank Tyler, (DT), North Carolina State - 2007

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