Between April 25-27, 254 football players will have their dreams come true as their names are called at the NFL Draft at the Radio City Music Hall in New York City.
Six former Baker University football players have worked out for NFL teams over the past month to try to help the chances of being drafted or signing a contract with a professional team as an undrafted free agent.
Wide receivers Kyle Bolton and Reggie Harris, tight end Joel Murphy, placekicker Steven Stewart, punter Garrett Chumley and long snapper Caleb Johnson have all performed for NFL scouts at different places around the country and head coach Mike Grossner is proud that they are trying to take their football careers to the next level.
“I’m just excited for all of them,” Grossner said. “You never know, but hopefully they land somewhere and get paid to play the game they love.”
Here is a recap of what each of the six former Wildcats have done over the past few weeks in an effort to prolong their football careers.
The 5-foot, 10-inch wide receiver first had the chance to show off his receiving skills in an NFL Regional Scouting Combine March 23 in Seattle. He did that and then some. Bolton posted a 40-yard dash time of 4.29 seconds, which was the fastest at the combine.
With his performance in Seattle, Bolton was invited to the NFL Super Regional Combine Sunday and Monday in Dallas, where all 32 teams were in attendance.
“I had scouts call my agent,” Bolton said. “So obviously I impressed some people.”
Bolton’s agent has been contacted by the Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars and Chicago Bears this week.
“The Bears called him (Tuesday) and he said the Bears are pretty interested, so we’re looking at the Bears right now as a place to try to go get a camp with (before the NFL Draft)” Bolton said.
Like Bolton, Murphy also was invited to the super regional combine in Dallas. Murphy stood out in a variety of aspects at the combine with being a 6-foot, 8-inch tight end from an NAIA school.
“I was the biggest guy here,” Murphy said in an interview Monday with KNBU-FM station manager Brad Barnes. “I wasn’t the most built or the strongest, but I was the tallest guy here and I weighed more than just about every tight end here but a couple. I feel pretty confident with the size because that is usually the biggest thing between (NCAA) Division I players and NAIA, but I luckily have that.”
Murphy went up against multiple NCAA Division I athletes, including tight ends from Alabama, Oregon and Oregon State.
“With this super regional combine, if you look at the stats last year, 124 people were invited out of 2,000 and 87 of them had contracts within a month afterward,” Murphy said.
While making it to the National Football League as a long snapper from an NAIA school like Baker might seem like a long shot, another former Wildcat has proven it’s possible in New York Jets long snapper Tanner Purdum.
“Tanner was one of the big selling points for Grossner for recruiting me since he was trying to get into the NFL at that point,” Johnson said. “Baker kind of breeds good long snappers and all that. (Purdum) coached me for about a year there and I picked up a lot of good stuff off of him. He has been inspirational for me because he showed me that people from Baker could get in (to the NFL).”
Johnson had the opportunity to attend a specialist combine March 26 in Phoenix in which he got to snap for 23 different NFL scouts or team representatives.
“The workouts (were) pretty fun with snapping in front of some of the best people around all trying to achieve the same goal,” Johnson said. “Those combines are pretty fun as far as that goes.”
Chumley wrapped up his collegiate career with fellow special teamer Johnson in 2011, but has also attended camps and combines nationwide since leaving Baker.
During the second week of March, Chumley attended a pro kicking camp in Boca Raton, Fla.
Chumley and the other punters participated in different drills for the first three days of the five-day camp, before cuts were made for who would go on to perform in front of NFL scouts.
“Unfortunately during the week down there, it was super, super windy. It was like 25-30 mph gusts with a 20 mph constant wind,” Chumley said.
Only two punters met the statistical qualifications to showcase themselves for the NFL scouts, but Chumley did receive some encouraging news.
“Unfortunately, they didn’t call my name to get in on the last day, but they pulled me aside on my kind of pro day which was the day before the scouts came and they were like, ‘we just want you to know that you were the next guy in line to get to go on the day with the scouts,’” Chumley said.
Stewart attended the combine with Chumley in Florida, but also attended one much closer to home.
The Olathe native attended the Kansas City Chiefs Local Pro Day on April 5.
“It was a really good experience getting to be around a bunch of local guys who are trying to make it (into the NFL,)” Stewart said. “It was awesome because John Dorsey, the (Kansas City Chiefs) general manager, he was there talking and watching everyone do all of their drills.”
Stewart realizes that is rare for a placekicker to latch on with an NFL team shortly after graduating from college, especially since his first year playing was last fall with BU.
“I’ve only kicked for nine months in my life and I’m going up against guys who have been doing it for years and years,” Stewart said. “I’ve definitely got some work to do. Especially in the kicking game, not a lot of people make it straight out of college, regardless of how long they’ve been kicking. This is definitely going to be a dream that I am going to have to chase for a few years and keep working because I can still improve a lot.”
After lining up at wide receiver and being a kick and punt returner for the Wildcats for four years, Harris played in the USA Freedom Bowl in February with other All-Americans from around the country and also attended the Chiefs Pro Day with Stewart.
Harris graduated high school from Olathe South and has been a Chiefs fan ever since he can remember.
“That was my team ever since I was a baby,” Harris said. “I was rocking the red and yellow.”
Harris thought the pro day went well for him and entered it with the same mindset as he had at BU.
“I think just as with every game at Baker, you have to take it as seriously as it is,” Harris said. “Just because we’re NAIA doesn’t mean that all of our games are like practice games. Every game is just as serious as we make it.”