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Draft Article on Corey Small


Draft Article on Corey Small

NFL DRAFT: Two Gulf Coast alums hoping to hear their name called

It doesn’t make a difference that Corey Small and Jake O’Connell didn’t make a playoff appearance during their time at Gulf Coast High. By the end of the day, both could be drafted or signed to NFL contracts.

Small, a cornerback from Florida Atlantic University, only played one season of varsity football for Sharks coach Frank Tudryn but went on to become the Owls’ career interception leader. He finished his senior year with 13 picks, highlighted by a three-interception performance in 2006 against Arkansas State. He’s also the school’s 11th all-time tackler, finishing his college career with 238.

O’Connell, who spent most of his career at Gulf Coast in the defensive secondary and returning punts, made the transition to tight end at Miami (Ohio), where he enters the NFL Draft with as impressive physical attributes as any other at his position. O’Connell is listed at 6-foot-4 and 255 pounds, but he’s beefed up in preparation for the draft, running a 40-yard dash at around 4.6 seconds — faster than top tight end prospect Jason Pettigrew of Oklahoma State — while springing a 41-inch vertical jump and benching 225 pounds 20 times.

Small and O’Connell are projected to be low-round picks at best. On the third defensive play of his start in the inaugural Texas vs. The Nation Senior Bowl, Small broke his ankle. Scouts have had to determine his draft status based on what they saw in practices.

"I’m fully recovered now, I was just cleared last week by my doctor and I have been able to run on (my ankle) for about three weeks now,” Small said. “A couple of teams called me to work out, but I told them I didn’t see how it would help me at this point. The best thing about those senior bowl games is that scouts can see you play before-hand."

O’Connell finished his senior season with 25 receptions for 258 yards — more than half of his career numbers of 46 catches for 453 yards and four touchdowns.

Even in a thin tight end draft class, those numbers aren’t exactly awe-inspiring for a senior coming out of the Mid-American Conference, but O’Connell has already privately worked out for the New England Patriots, Cincinnati Bengals and Chicago Bears.

"We had a pro day here and that went well, and things were good when I went to work out for the pro teams,” he said. “They have been in contact since then, and have said they expect me to be a late-round pick, but if not, sign as a free agent.”

Actually, both players figure that signing after the draft may be a better option for them. Small and O’Connell can pick a team that gives them the best opportunity. That’s where their agents come in. Small hired Brett Mankey of Capital Sports Management in St. Augustine, while O’Connell will likely spend the draft with his agent, Hank Reed of RDI Sports Management.

“The process has been a long stressful process,” Small said. “The biggest thing is you just want to stay in shape and work out. You want to be ready to go when you get that phone call.”

Tudryn, who has talked to both his former players, expects to hear good things from them both, but his concern for them went beyond the football field. Both of his student-athletes made good on the title, waiting until graduation to enter the NFL work force.

“In those two guys, we had two players that were great students and I have never doubted their character,” he said. “I bugged Corey about getting that degree and we laughed about it when he told me … and I’ll never forget the smile that Jake was always wearing.”

Both players graduated from Gulf Coast together and have remained close. While neither is holding their breath that they’ll be reunited on the same NFL team, both are expecting big things from each other.

“Whatever happens, it’s all about just getting an opportunity,” Small said.

“I think the goal for both me and Corey is the same; we just want to get picked up and get a chance to play.” O’Connell said.

Source:  Nick Krueger, naplesnews.com
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