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Testing Talents, Chasing Dreams

Coal Grove’s Caleb McKnight maneuvers through the L-drill.

In the movie “The Maltese Falcon,” detective Tom Polhaus picks up the falcon and asks, “Heavy. What is it?”

Sam Spade replies, “The stuff that dreams are made of.”

And so the dream begins for area high school football players with hopes of playing at the next level as nearly 50 participated in the first annual Tri-State Rehab High School Football Combine was held Saturday at Ironton High School.

The combine used the same tests and drills that are conducted at an NFL combine. Along with measurements, the nine different stations include flexibility test, 40-yard dash, broad jump, vertical jump, power throw, L-drill, 3-cone drill, hurdles and bench press.

The session ended with a luncheon that featured guest speaker Tyler Whaley, the former Ohio State Buckeyes’ fullback who also spent time in a Cincinnati Bengals’ tryout camp.

Whaley knows what it means to have a dream and to attend a combine. He attended the Ohio State pro day combine after his senior year when he helped the Buckeyes to the 2007 national championship game.

“The combine at Ohio State helped me get the chance with the Bengals. These combines are important. I wished I had this when I was in high school,” Whaley said.

Besides the combine Whaley said it took a lot of hard work including utilizing the F.A.S.T. program that is available to today’s players.

“I wish I had programs like they have now. I did the early F.A.S.T. program when I was at Ohio State. I was Dave Coburn’s guinea pig,” said Whaley with a laugh.

“I was told I was ‘too short, too slow, we’re not even going to look at you.’ Don’t let that discourage you. It starts with this right here. You got out of bed and came here. That’s the first step. But keep working. Set goals for yourself.”

Although college coaches are not allowed to attend combines, the results will be made available to the schools of choice by the players.

Thanks to sponsors, the combine fee was just $25 and players also received a dry fit T-shirt, gift bag and a one-month membership at Tri-State Rehab facilities.

“I was pleased with the turnout and I thought it went real well. I’m happy with they way it went and I think it’s only going to get better,” said Coburn who was the combine director.

“We got great support from out sponsors. They are the ones who really helped make this possible.”

Here are the top finishers:

Freshmen: 1, Caleb McKnight, Coal Grove; 2, Matthew Lawson, Greenup County.

Sophomores: 1, Michael Staggs, Wheelersburg; 2, Austin Manis, Raceland;

Juniors: 1, Patrick Lewis, Ironton; 2, Donald Wells, Ironton;

Seniors: 1, Brian Caudill, Raceland; 2, Tommy Saul, Ironton;

Overall Champion: Brian Caudill, Raceland.