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Past production loses out to future potential


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POSTED: Monday, April 27, 2009

When Davone Bess, Solomon Elimimian, Jake Ingram and Adam Leonard were University of Hawaii football freshmen in 2005, who thought Ingram would be the one among them to get drafted by an NFL team?

If you did, I want to hear what you have to say about the stock market.

Let's go back to a little less than a year ago. Elimimian and Leonard, UH's ultra-productive linebackers, were headliners at the Western Athletic Conferences annual media preview. They were the top tacklers on the Hawaii teams that had gone 23-4 in 2006 and 2007.

Elimimian finished his career as the program's leading tackler and made good on the player of the year honor predicted for him. Leonard battled through injuries, but still had a productive season.

Ingram remained the flawless but low-profile long snapper who had walked on as a defensive end. A scout not known for hyperbole told me last October that Ingram would be drafted.

TURNED OUT to be right. Ingram was a sixth-round pick of the Patriots yesterday, putting him at the top of the depth chart for a Super Bowl contender. As of last night, Elimimian and Leonard were still hoping for free-agent opportunities.

This is how bad it is for Elimimian: The Lions told his agent they'd get back to him today. The Lions.

That same agent, Wynn Silberman, represents Ingram. They hit the jackpot together. If Ingram lives up to his track record and his potential, he's looking at a 10-year NFL career—and that's being conservative.

Silberman said what happened with his clients yesterday is symptomatic of how the NFL does business now. No one wants to take a chance (well, except for Al Davis). And specialists who are the very best at what they do are rewarded.

For most, college production—especially on a non-BCS conference team—doesn't mean as much as professional projection.

Leonard and Elimimian are small by NFL linebacker standards, and haven't displayed enough speed to the scouts to make up for it. Even Aaron Curry, a linebacker some called the best pure football player in the draft, was devalued due to his position.

"A lot of scouts hide behind numbers rather than stepping forward and trying to evaluate talent," Silberman said. "They're protecting their jobs, and it's easier to defend yourself if you point at numbers."

And those numbers are 40 times and size, not hundreds of tackles in college.

BESS WENT UNDRAFTED last year, also deemed too slow by the scouts. But it worked out for the slot receiver, as he landed with a team that really wanted him, the Miami Dolphins.

Silberman hopes he can do for Elimimian what Kenny Zuckerman did for Bess.

"It might take some time to put him where he's in position to make a roster than just place him on any team," Silberman said.

He has to keep shopping Elimimian to the GMs. He has to emphasize that the slow 40 was due to a hamstring issue, and remind them about the great NFL linebackers who didn't even reach 6 feet with their helmets on.

As for Ingram, it was a snap. He was in demand.

"As soon as the Patriots picked him, I got a text from another team," Silberman said. "It was a four-letter word."