FAIRFIELD — With their college careers behind them, three local football players are taking the next step toward a career in the NFL.
Vanden High graduate Deone Bucannon and Rodriguez graduates Jason Verrett and Marcel Jensen are headed to Indianapolis this weekend to participate in the NFL Combine, showcasing their respective mind and bodies for NFL coaches and scouts.
Physicals and interviews begin Friday, with the skills portion of the event scheduled to begin Saturday and run through Tuesday..
All the results will be evaluated and used by teams and their personnel to determine each player’s potential draft status.
Verrett, a cornerback who played three seasons at Texas Christian, most likely will be the highest pick of the three, with two analysts at NFL.com having him being selected anywhere from 27th to 31st,
“Right now, I’m going in there to execute what I’ve been preparing for,” Verrett said in a phone interview this week. “I feel like I was prepared at TCU. I had great coaches there and the strength coach prepared me physically. (Without) my three years there I wouldn’t be in the situation that I’m in.”
Though he wasn’t thrown at too much this season, Verrett made his mark, making 39 tackles, intercepting two passes and had 14 passes defensed.
Verrett knows how he performs for the coaches and scouts will reflect on his draft status.
“I believe it’s very important,” he said. “If I run well and test well, I can get drafted in the first round. It was a little humbling seeing (the mock drafts). I have a target of where I could land.
“I’m a fan of all 32 teams right now.”
As for Bucannon, who just wrapped up his career at Washington State, he’s a big hitter, recording 116 tackles this season – 78 solo – to go with six interceptions.
“It’s a dream come true (to be invited to the Combine),” Bucannon said. “I want to go in there and play to the best of my abilities. I feel blessed, living in the moment.
“I’ve kind of been working really hard, my strengths are pretty much everything. I want to do well in every category. It’s hard to pick out a strength. I just want to perform well.”
LeVon Haynes, Bucannon’s coach at Vanden High, knows the Combine is the first important step for anyone looking to be drafted.
“It’s very important. It’s a job interview,” Haynes said. “At this point, he’s done all he can do at the collegiate level. Now its time to impress the NFL scouts and see what kind of player he is.
“He’s a student of the game. He’s very well spoken and comes from a good disciplined background, all the way through Washington State.”
The Vikings’ coach isn’t concerned how well Bucannon will perform. He knows he’s ready.
“I think he has to go out there and do what he does best, play the game of football and get through the drills,” the coach said. “He knows what’s at hand. To be in this position that he’s in is a fantastic position. For me, a guy from our program, he’s a guy that you can you look up to.
“I feel like a proud father and for Jason, too. I had an opportunity to coach him in an all-star game. These two guys from our local area, getting all the national attention and be high draft picks, this might be the first time in a long, long time to be high draft picks (together). Whatever teams they land on, they will make that team better right away.”
Unfortunately, Haynes knows Bucannon won’t be able to show off his best ability.
“Unfortunately, he can’t hit anybody,” he said. “I really think they want to see how well he moves, how his hips are turning and how his feet are moving. It’s about the technique that they are looking for. I know he will interview well. That’s what they really will be impressed with.”
Jensen, who couldn’t be reached for comment, is coming off his senior season at Fresno State, playing tight end for the Bulldogs.
Jensen made 26 catches this season for 353 yards and three touchdowns. He had 28 catches for 708 yards and eight TDs in his career for the Bulldogs.
Reach Brian Arnold at 427-6969 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/barnolddr.