East Xtra: High school football combine offers locals a chance to thrive

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For a second year the Westmoreland County Coaches Association will host its Underclassman Showcase, a football combine for high school athletes to display their talents to college coaches.

The showcase will be held May 17 at Hempfield Area High School, starting with registration at 7:30 a.m. and then testing at 9 a.m.

The athletes will be tested on bench rep max, 40-yard dash, vertical jump and pro agility run. There will also be a period when skill players on both offense and defense will have a one-on-one opportunity to show their talents, while offensive and defensive linemen will have work as well. Punters and kicker will also be given a concentrated session.

Although Division I coaches aren't permitted to attend due to NCAA regulations, the showcase last year drew 107 participants and more than 30 colleges from Division I-AA and lower classifications were represented.

"For the first year, I'd say it was very successful," said Larry Sellitto, WCCA president and special teams coordinator at Franklin Regional High School. "It was really these kids' first exposure to college coaches and the recruiting process."

Sellitto and fellow WCCA members have high expectations for this year's showcase. Sellitto said roughly 125 or more high school athletes have already registered and they expect the same number of colleges, if not more, to be represented Saturday.

"We've reached out from everywhere to the Philadelphia area, all the way down to Wisconsin," Sellitto said. "We got the information out to colleges and coaches so that if they're interested they'll come by."

Schools that attended last year that are expected to make an appearance this year include: Duquesne, Bucknell, Waynesburg, Geneva, California University of Pennsylvania, Ohio Wesleyan, Saint Vincent and Seton Hill.

Although this year's showcase is offered only to sophomore and juniors, last year's seniors saw positive results from participating.

"I liked it a lot, it was my first combine," said Colin Jonov, an incoming freshman at Bucknell who will be playing defensive back. "I got interest from Delaware and then Bucknell approached me about playing defensive back for them. You never know who is watching."

Of the 44 seniors who showcased their skills last year, 36 committed to play college football at some level.

The showcase also will host former IUP standout Jai Hill, who played in the NFL, AFL and CFL and is currently an NCSA athletic recruiting partner speaker as well as senior coach relations coordinator. Hill will speak to parents and athletes about the recruiting process and what they need to do to make it go smoothly.

"I stress all areas," Hill said. "I stress that these kids get the right training, I stress academics, because injury could happen at anytime and if they fall below that 3.0 or 3.5 [grade point average], it's really hard to get an academic scholarship.

"I let the kids and parents know they need to set realistic goals."

Mark Venturella's tutoring service, Score More Tutors, will also be on hand to offer their guidance for any athletes who may want to sign up for future help with academic related issues.

"Every year we want to add another component," said Sellitto. "We want to make these kids more attractive to colleges and that's not just in football. We want them to be as whole as possible in academics and athletics."

Pre-registration cost is $50 and the showcase is open to all current Westmoreland County area sophomores and juniors. College coaches are welcomed to observe and evaluate any potential prospects.

For more information contact Sellitto at (412)-491-1212.

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