YSU players eye NFL opportunities
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By Joe Scalzo
Over the last 15 years, Youngstown State has put six players in the NFL, three players in the Super Bowl, one player in the Pro Bowl, two players in the World Bowl and one player in the Arena Bowl.
But since Harry Deligianis in 1998, the Penguins haven’t had a single NFL draft pick.
That should change this weekend.
Guard Lamar Mady, a two-year starter, is expected to be a mid-to late-round pick. He’s one of three Penguins hoping to sign with NFL teams this week, along with tight end Will Shaw and running back Jamaine Cook, who are more likely to sign as undrafted free agents.
That’s fine with Cook.
“My ultimate goal is to just make that 53-man roster,” Cook said. “That’s all that matters at the end of the day. It doesn’t matter where you’re picked. If you’re on that 53-man roster, you’re the same as anyone else.”
Last season, 15 rookies from the Football Championship Subdivision made the opening roster of NFL teams and several more earned spots on the practice squad.
Each year, an average of 40 undrafted free agent rookies make NFL rosters. There are two former Penguins in the NFL right now — Patriots wide receiver Donald Jones and Raiders cornerback Brandian Ross — both went undrafted.
“I played on the same field as those guys and I feel like I played against some of the best competition,” Cook said. “I’m very confident I can make a team and get on the 53 and show what Youngstown State guys bring to the table.”
Mady, one of 24 FCS players invited to this year’s NFL combine, has drawn interest from the New York Giants this offseason, with a Giants scout attending YSU’s Pro Day specifically to work out Mady, according to NFL.com.
Shaw, a three-year starter, didn’t play tight end until midway through his junior year. His size (6-1 1/2) and speed (4.73 40-yard dash) has interested scouts.
“A lot of teams seem really interested,” said Shaw, who was a starting safety as a sophomore and has also played linebacker and defensive line in practice. “Everybody seems to like my versatility and the different things I can bring.
“I’ve been taking a lot of phone calls since my pro day and now it’s just a waiting game.”
Last week, Cook participated in the Cleveland Browns Local Day, lowering his 40-yard dash time (from 4.79 to 4.59) and his short shuttle time (from a 4.2 to a 4.06). He then spent 30 minutes talking with Browns coach Rob Chudzinski and running backs coach John Settle.
“It was great,” Cook said. “I still had a chip on my shoulder from YSU’s pro day and I feel a lot better about how I did.
“Now I’m basically just working out, keeping the faith and working hard. That’s all I know. That’s what got me this far.”
Simon, Zordich eye NFL
Two Cardinal Mooney High graduates are hoping to get picked up by NFL teams this week, with defensive end-linebacker John Simon (Ohio State) projected as a second- or third-round pick and fullback Michael Zordich (Penn State) a likely undrafted free-agent prospect.
Simon was the Big Ten defensive player of the year at Ohio State last fall. Zordich’s father, Mike, played 12 seasons in the NFL with the Jets, Cardinals and Eagles.