/notables/2015/04/2015-nfl-draft-preview

Division III's draft prospects looking up

Jake Kumerow has a Division I background and NFL history in his family to help him stand out. And the skills.
Photo by Ryan Coleman, d3photography.com

By Adam Turer
D3sports.com

It’s been three years since Albion cornerback Chris Greenwood was selected with the 148th pick in the NFL draft by the Detroit Lions. The Division III draft drought will almost certainly end this weekend, and a deep class of D-III talent will populate NFL rosters come Sunday.

Hobart offensive lineman Ali Marpet is projected to hear his name called within the first 100 picks of the draft. He is in line to be the highest picked player from Division III since Ferrum running back Chris Warren was selected with the 90th pick by Seattle in 1990.

It will be a few more rounds before another Division III prospect hears his name called, if any. This could be the first year since 2007 to feature multiple Division III draftees. Wide receivers Rasheed Bailey (Delaware Valley) and Jake Kumerow (UW-Whitewater) may be selected in the final rounds on Saturday. If not drafted, Bailey and Kumerow will likely sign as free agents quickly after the conclusion of the seventh round.

Once those calls start coming in, a host of other Division III prospects should be on the receiving end. Kicker Andrew Franks (RPI), running backs Domonique Hayden (Thomas More), Rasheed Williams (Alfred State) and Cartel Brooks (Heidelberg), quarterbacks Kevin Burke (Mount Union), Aaron Wilmer (Delaware Valley) and Matt Behrendt (UW-Whitewater), and defensive back Jake Bussani (Wesleyan) are among the players who have been working hard since the 2014 season ended in the hopes of catching the eyes of NFL scouts. Just hearing their names mentioned in the same sentence as the NFL draft is exciting for the small-school prospects.

Rasheed Bailey was practically uncoverable in Division III last season. How will that translate?
Delaware Valley athletics photo 

“It’s a wild feeling. It’s been like a dream come true,” said Bailey. “I never had intentions [of playing in the NFL]. My intention was to be the best college football player I could be. The rest is history.”

“I know a lot of people don’t get these opportunities, so I am thankful and know I have to make the most of it,” said Hayden.

Hayden graduated in December, then spent two months training in Denver. Kumerow won the Stagg Bowl then headed to Florida to train with his uncle, former second round pick John Bosa. Burke, coming off the Stagg Bowl defeat, was eager to get back to football. Whether the season ended on a high or low note, getting back on the field and in the weight room helped these players move on from their final college season.

“Losing is something that you never get used to. Having this whole process is something that helped me come to grips with that,” said Burke. “I’m not used to not having a plan for my future. The way I operate, I have to go 100 percent in one direction and that’s what I’m doing with football right now.”

“It wasn’t too hard to come back and get reenergized, knowing what’s at stake,” said Kumerow. “I’m as energized and motivated as I’ve ever been.”

Most of these players were able to attend local pro days and received individual attention from NFL teams. Williams worked out for the Houston Texans. Franks had individual workouts with representatives from the Miami Dolphins and Indianapolis Colts. Wilmer and Bailey worked out for their hometown Philadelphia Eagles. Hayden worked out at the University of Cincinnati pro day. Kumerow showed off for scouts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison pro day and made a private visit to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Despite the feedback from NFL organizations, every prospect enters draft week with uncertainty, especially those on the draft bubble. Greenwood went through the experience three years ago and remembers it well.

“I heard a lot of different things going into the draft,” said Greenwood. “I tried to get that out of my mind and focus on working out and just let God take over.”

Greenwood, now with the Baltimore Ravens, advised the 2015 rookie class to be ready for the physical and mental grind of the NFL. He learned that he has to take care of his body year-round, and that there really is no NFL offseason.

The players who have committed themselves to continue their training beyond their final college season have the passion for the game that is required at the next level. Those that are unsigned will look for a rookie minicamp invitation. If the NFL doesn’t come calling, they are prepared to try to make it in the CFL, AFL, or other professional league that could be a stepping stone toward something greater.

“All I want is that chance to get on that field and show what I’ve got,” said Brooks. “I feel like I’ve got to play football this year. Somehow, someway, I’ve got to get there.”

“There’s no secret formula. If you really want it, you put the time in,” said Bailey. “If you really want something, you have to sacrifice.”

Andrew Franks has a big leg, and while kickers rarely get drafted from any level, Franks has a good shot to keep playing.
RPI athletics photo by Tom Killips

The NFL wasn’t the goal for these players when they arrived on their respective campuses. For Franks, it became a possibility when he spent an offseason working out with then-NFL kicker Justin Medlock. Brooks started to entertain the idea after his record-breaking 465-yard game during his junior season. Bailey felt like he belonged when talking with Heisman winner Marcus Mariota at the Maxwell Football Club award ceremony last month, where both players were honored.

“It’s something that when I came here wasn’t expected, to say the least,” said Franks. “The fact I’m even getting exposure as a Division III student-athlete has been exciting.”

There is also an underdog mentality shared by these players. When they worked out with Division I and II players in preparation for the draft, they gained confidence.

“It’s tough to come from a lower division and get noticed,” said Burke. “One thing I’ve always had is a chip on my shoulder.”

That chip doesn’t go away, even after making it to the NFL.

“You always want to prove to others and to yourself that you belong, no matter where you went to school,” said Greenwood. “Coming from Division III, you almost have to prove yourself more than other guys. There’s always that chip there playing against guys who got scholarships.”

This year’s hopeful rookies are encouraged by players like Greenwood, Cecil Shorts III, Pierre Garçon, Jerrell Freeman, and Matt Blanchard who have found NFL employment in recent years. All they want is one contract, one tryout, one chance to show that their skills translate to the next level.

“Seeing D3 guys in the NFL now gives you inspiration and drive to know that it’s in reach,” said Hayden. “No matter where you start, you have to take advantage of your opportunities. If you can play the game, you can play the game. Some guys just don’t get the opportunity.”

This week is not the end of the journey, but just the beginning.

“There’s nothing much I can do at this point,” said Kumerow, “but I feel like I’m not done playing football yet.”

Sep. 15: All times Eastern
Final
at Coe 38, Cornell 0
Video Photos Photos
Sep. 19: All times Eastern
7:00 PM
Manchester at Defiance
@ Defiance High School
Video Preview Live stats
Sep. 20: All times Eastern
6:30 PM
Moravian at Johns Hopkins
Video Video Live stats Live stats
7:00 PM
Morrisville State at St. Lawrence
7:00 PM
MIT at Becker
Video Live stats
Sep. 21: All times Eastern
12:00 PM
Alfred State at Rochester
Video Live stats Live stats
12:00 PM
Brockport at Buffalo State
Video Live stats Audio
12:00 PM
DePauw at Kenyon
Video Live stats Audio
12:00 PM
Massachusetts Maritime at Maine Maritime
Video
12:00 PM
Salve Regina at Dean
Video Live stats
12:00 PM
Rowan at Hobart
Video Live stats Audio
12:00 PM
TCNJ at St. John Fisher
Video Live stats
12:00 PM
Juniata at Ursinus
Video Live stats
12:00 PM
Westfield State at Framingham State
Video Preview Live stats
12:00 PM
Wesley at Endicott
Video Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
Amherst at Colby
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Catholic at Methodist
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Middlebury at Bates
Video Preview Live stats
1:00 PM
SUNY-Maritime at Merchant Marine
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Bowdoin at Trinity (Conn.)
Video
1:00 PM
Springfield at Union
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Gallaudet at Apprentice
Live stats
1:00 PM
Hanover at Maryville (Tenn.)
Video Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
Concordia (Wis.) at Trine
1:00 PM
St. Vincent at Westminster (Pa.)
Video Live stats Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Wesleyan at Hamilton
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Aurora at Hope
Video Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
Washington and Jefferson at Carnegie Mellon
Video Preview Live stats Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Guilford at Washington and Lee
Video Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
WPI at Husson
Live stats
1:00 PM
Eureka at Albion
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Averett at Ferrum
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Hampden-Sydney at Southern Virginia
Video Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
Emory and Henry at Randolph-Macon
Video Live stats Audio Audio
1:00 PM
McDaniel at Franklin and Marshall
Video Video Preview Live stats
1:00 PM
Worcester State at Plymouth State
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Alfred at Ithaca
Video Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
Wilkes at Lycoming
Video Live stats Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Oberlin at Ohio Wesleyan
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Susquehanna at Muhlenberg
Video Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Wabash at Allegheny
Video Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
Stevenson at Delaware Valley
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
FDU-Florham at Widener
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Alvernia at Lebanon Valley
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Dickinson at Gettysburg
Video Video Live stats Live stats
1:00 PM
Lakeland at Kalamazoo
Live stats
1:00 PM
Concordia-Chicago at Finlandia
1:00 PM
Greenville at Northwestern (Minn.)
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Huntingdon at UW-Oshkosh
Video Video Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
MacMurray at Minnesota-Morris
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Carroll at Carthage
Video Live stats Audio
1:30 PM
Tufts at Williams
Video Live stats
1:30 PM
Baldwin Wallace at Mount Union
Video Live stats Audio Audio
1:30 PM
Franklin at Bluffton
Video Live stats
1:30 PM
Anderson at Mount St. Joseph
Live stats
1:30 PM
Bethany at Waynesburg
2:00 PM
John Carroll at Otterbein
Live stats
2:00 PM
Nichols at Anna Maria
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Coast Guard at Norwich
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Ohio Northern at Wilmington
Video Preview Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
Rockford at Alma
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Westminster (Mo.) at Iowa Wesleyan
2:00 PM
Thomas More at UW-Platteville
Video Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
Carleton at St. Olaf
Video Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
Gustavus Adolphus at St. John's
Video Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
Augsburg at Concordia-Moorhead
Video Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
Nebraska Wesleyan at Buena Vista
Video Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
Hardin-Simmons at Howard Payne
Video Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
Centre at Austin
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Crown at St. Scholastica
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Elmhurst at Augustana
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Coe at Loras
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Wartburg at Luther
Video Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
Millikin at North Park
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
UW-Whitewater at St. Xavier
2:00 PM
Whittier at Lewis and Clark
Video Live stats Audio Tickets
2:10 PM
St. Thomas at Hamline
Video Live stats
2:30 PM
King's at Hartwick
Video Live stats
3:00 PM
Castleton at University of New England
Video Live stats Live stats
3:00 PM
Benedictine at Olivet
Live stats
3:00 PM
Wisconsin Lutheran at Adrian
Video Live stats
3:00 PM
Sul Ross State at McMurry
Video Live stats
3:00 PM
UW-La Crosse at Dickinson St.
Audio
3:00 PM
UW-River Falls at Waldorf
3:00 PM
Occidental at Willamette
Video Live stats
3:30 PM
Western Connecticut at Bridgewater State
Live stats
4:00 PM
La Verne at Puget Sound
Video Live stats
4:00 PM
Pacific Lutheran at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps
Video Live stats
4:30 PM
Wooster at Wittenberg
Preview Live stats Audio
4:30 PM
Fitchburg State at Mass-Dartmouth
Video Preview Preview Live stats
5:00 PM
UW-Stevens Point at Dakota St.
Live stats Audio
6:00 PM
Utica at RPI
Video Live stats Audio
6:00 PM
Western New England at Stetson
6:00 PM
North Central (Ill.) at Washington U.
Video Preview Preview Live stats Audio Audio
7:00 PM
Muskingum at Marietta
Live stats Audio
7:00 PM
Hiram at Denison
Video Preview Live stats Live stats
7:00 PM
Bridgewater at Shenandoah
Live stats Audio
7:00 PM
Christopher Newport at Brevard
Video Video Preview Live stats
7:00 PM
Capital at Heidelberg
7:00 PM
Grove City at Case Western Reserve
Video Preview Live stats
7:00 PM
Thiel at Geneva
Video Live stats
7:00 PM
Berry at Trinity (Texas)
Video Live stats Audio
7:00 PM
Simpson at Dubuque
Video Live stats Audio Audio
7:00 PM
Birmingham-Southern at Sewanee
Video Live stats
7:00 PM
Texas Lutheran at East Texas Baptist
Video Live stats Audio
7:00 PM
Illinois Wesleyan at Wheaton (Ill.)
Video Live stats
7:00 PM
Louisiana College at Southwestern
Video Preview Live stats
7:00 PM
Belhaven at Mary Hardin-Baylor
Video Live stats Audio
8:00 PM
Rhodes at Millsaps
Video Live stats
10:00 PM
Pomona-Pitzer at George Fox
Video Preview Live stats
10:00 PM
Linfield at Redlands
Video Live stats Audio Audio
10:00 PM
Whitworth at Chapman
Video Preview Live stats Audio Tickets
10:00 PM
Pacific at Cal Lutheran
Video Live stats
Sep. 5: All times Eastern
Final
Johns Hopkins 17, at Randolph-Macon 12
Video Box Score Recap Recap
Sep. 6: All times Eastern
Final
Salisbury 63, at Albright 28
Video Box Score
Final
Delaware Valley 37, at Kean 7
Video Box Score Recap
Sep. 7: All times Eastern
Final
North Central (Ill.) 43, at Christopher Newport 13
Video Box Score Recap Photos
Final
Wesley 69, at Franklin Pierce 0
Video Box Score Photos
Final
at Muhlenberg 45, TCNJ 26
Video Video Box Score
Final
Ithaca 66, at St. Vincent 28
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Susquehanna 42, Lycoming 26
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Washington and Jefferson 16, Wittenberg 8
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at John Carroll 21, UW-Stevens Point 7
Video Box Score
Final
Centre 45, at Hanover 31
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Berry 31, at Maryville (Tenn.) 10
Box Score
Final
at Bethel 42, Simpson 10
Video Video Box Score
Final
Wheaton (Ill.) 38, at Monmouth 0
Video Box Score
Final
St. John's 14, at UW-Stout 7
Video Box Score Recap Photos
Final - OT
at UW-La Crosse 21, Concordia-Moorhead 14
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Whitworth 50, at La Verne 24
Video Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at St. Thomas 69, Trinity International 3
Video Video Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at UW-Whitewater 42, Dubuque 7
Video Box Score Photos
Final
Mount Union 66, at Rose-Hulman 14
Video Box Score Photos Photos
Final
Hardin-Simmons 64, at Sul Ross State 0
Box Score Photos
Final
Washington U. 43, at Chicago 7
Box Score Recap Photos