Saturday, February 27, 2010

Hoosiers Chasing NFL Dreams

So here are Rodger Saffold (pictured courtesy of the IU athletics department), Nick Polk, Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton, hoping to follow in the NFL footsteps of Tracy Porter and Courtney Roby. The Indiana Hoosiers are at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis and the next few days will go a long way toward deciding whether they are draft material.

At the combine they will be poked and prodded, tested and, for those with a cynical nature, tortured. NFL coaches will challenge then physically and mentally to see if they are worth investing several million dollars.

This is the third straight year at least one Hoosier has participated in the annual event. Last year it was receiver Andrew Means. In 2008, it was Porter (one of the heroes of the New Orleans Saints Super Bowl victory), Buffalo Bills receiver James Hardy and long snapper Tim Bugg.

Saffold, an All-Big Ten left tackle as a senior, has boosted himself to a possible third-round draft choice. He started 41 of 42 career games. Last season he was part of a line that allowed just 16 sacks, second best in the Big Ten. He helped his draft prospects with a solid showing in the East-West Shrine All-Star Game.

Kirlew was named team MVP for the second straight season. The second-team all-conference pick finished his career with 23 sacks (third most in school history) and 52.5 tackles for loss (second most in school history).

Middleton totaled 23 career sacks, including a school-record 16 as a sophomore to lead the nation. He had three sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss was a senior.

The versatile Polk played free safety and receiver for IU. He totaled 179 tackles, five interceptions, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He also caught 33 passes for 335 yards and one touchdown.

Saffold and Kirlew spent the last month or so training at the IMG facility in Bradenton, Fla. They would start around 7 a.m. and finish around 5:30 p.m. They would lift and run and prepare for interviews with coaches.

Saffold seems the most likely IU player to be drafted, although nothing is etched in stone. He’s talked with most of the teams, including the Indianapolis Colts and San Diego Chargers.

For those players not drafted, they can sign as free agents with a team and try to make the roster during summer camp.

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