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Slate working his way back to NFL caliber

From high school to college, there have been a lot of changes in Cody Slate’s life. Then again, there hasn’t.

Like most young boys in America playing high school football, Slate had a dream of playing college football and eventually in the NFL. For Slate, those dreams have come true or are on the verge of happening when the NFL conducts its annual draft April 22-24.

But Cody Slate is a realist. Like most men, he thinks pragmatically. He knows to put dreams in perspective. And when the Marshall Thundering Herd senior tight end suffered a season-ending knee injury with three games to play, Slate wasn’t about to panic.

“I always dreamed of playing in the NFL when I was in high school, but I also wanted to be an athletic director,” said Slate. “There are dreams and there is reality. I knew if the NFL didn’t happen, I had to have something else to fall back on.”

For most players, a severe knee injury would be devastating. For Slate, it’s just reality with another slap in the face. He tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his other knee while playing high school ball in Florida.

“They did a study and about half the players in the NFL have had knee injuries, so it really isn’t that big of a deal to them. It all depends on the team,” said Slate.

After his surgery, Slate began his rehabilitation process at the end of December with athletic trainer and physical therapist Dave Coburn at Tri-State Rehab Services and Preferred Fitness Center in Ironton, formerly known as Ironton Physical Therapy. Coburn has been amazed by Slate’s progress.

“He’s doing great. He does 430 pounds on the leg press and that’s with one leg,” said Coburn.

“Everything is a progression. We’re getting ready to start planting his foot and cut off it. He’s at a stage where the only thing that can hurt his knee now is if he would jump off a building. It’s just a matter of time before he’s back to 100 percent and ready to play.”

Slate has been working five days a week on his therapy. The 6-foot-4 tight end said he now weighs 241 pounds after playing at about 230 during his senior season with the Herd.

“It was kind of a blessing in disguise. I put on the extra weight and some different teams are looking at me now as a true tight end,” said Slate who impressed NFL scouts by benching 225 pounds 27 times.

A true tight end? In some respects, yes, but when you consider Slate runs a between a 4.4 and 4.5 seconds time in the 40-yard dash, he is anything but a true tight end. He sounds more like a wide receiver and that is why so many teams have shown an interest in him.

“I’ve talked to a lot of teams like Jacksonville, Carolina and Kansas City. Texas called the other day just to ask my date of birth, but that was it,” said Slate.

“You never know what any of the teams are thinking. My agent asked one team and they said they don’t discuss those things. I’ve been told that most of the time a team that doesn’t even talk to you is usually the one that will draft you.”

The NFL draft will be held over a three-day period this year for the first time including the first round in prime time at 7:30 p.m. Thursday on ESPN.

Before the injury, Slate was expected to be taken in one of the middle to late rounds. Now, he appears to have been dropped from the seven-round selection process and will probably sign a free agent contract.

“I don’t care where it’s at. I would like to play someplace that’s warm,” said Slate.

Not ever playing again hasn’t been on Slate’s mind and he already has his degree in sports management.

“I didn’t think about (the injury) being the end of my career. I knew I had a chance to play in the NFL so it really hasn’t bothered me,” said Slate.

“If I don’t play, I’ll try to get a graduate assistant’s position and work on my master’s and get on with my career in sports administration.”

Some things just never change.