Former local stars hope to stand out at NFL Scouting Combine
Former Pitt star running back Ray Graham hopes to prove his worth to NFL teams at the scouting combine in Indianapolis.
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Ray Graham's Pitt career ended in disappointing fashion when he sat out the BBVA Compass Bowl with a hamstring injury, but he's ready to move on and get his professional career off to a fast start this week.
Graham is one of more than 300 hopefuls -- and the only Pitt player -- who will try to impress scouts and general managers this week at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
"I'm feeling good, feeling the best I've felt yet," Graham said. "I'm ready to go. I'm ready to shock the world, prove to the world what they've been missing."
As a senior, Graham rushed for 1,077 yards and 11 touchdowns. He graduated as the second-leading rusher (3,306 yards) in Pitt history, behind only Tony Dorsett.
Since the bowl game, Graham has trained with other draft prospects -- including his brother, former Rutgers linebacker Khaseem Greene -- at Ignition Athletics Performance Group in Naples, Fla.
Graham said the injury that forced him out of the bowl game has healed and he will participate in all combine workouts and running back position drills.
"[I want to] show them that I can catch the ball real well, I've got great feet, I can move good [and] in and out of holes fast," he said. "Just try to do it all there."
Graham's biggest goal is to get his 40-yard dash time in the 4.4-second range. He said he has been around 4.5 seconds in training.
Most draft projections have Graham, who had a season-ending ACL injury his junior year, going in the mid to late rounds of April's draft. A strong showing at the combine, though, could boost his stock significantly.
"I haven't really heard anything," Graham said of his draft positioning. "I try to stay away from that until everything is done. Once I get through it, I'll just talk to my agent, see what's going on so I can really get a little feel of everything and where I'll be going."
While Graham is the only Pitt player headed to Indianapolis, he will be joined by several other players from area schools.
Four West Virginia players have been invited, including quarterback Geno Smith and receiver Tavon Austin. Many draft analysts predict both could be first-round selections.
Receiver Stedman Bailey, who announced in December he will forgo his senior year, and center Joe Madsen also were invited.
Smith will do a full workout for scouts, despite the recent trend of top quarterbacks choosing not to do so.
"Honestly, it's just a matter of me getting out and competing and show some coaches what I can do," Smith said last week on a radio interview with 610Sports in Kansas City. "It's only a little bit of who I am as a player but it's still good to let them see me throw live-action ... it's good to be out there and compete and also showcase my talents."
Smith, who is 6 feet 3 and weighed as much as 225 pounds to start the season but now is listed at 214, threw for 4,205 yards, 42 touchdowns and seven interceptions this season.
Austin, at 5-9, 174 pounds, was primarily a slot receiver in his career at West Virginia. He had 114 receptions and 1,289 receiving yards as a senior, but broke out for 673 rushing yards on 72 attempts, mostly in the second half of the season.
Bailey posted 1,622 receiving yards with 114 receptions and a team-leading 25 touchdowns.
Madsen, 6-4, 310 pounds, was a four-year starter at center.
Penn State also will have four players in attendance, highlighted by linebacker Michael Mauti.
While Mauti likely will be limited by a knee injury that happened in a late-season game against Indiana, he still can meet with teams and general managers. Kimberly Jones of the NFL Network reported that Mauti recently wrote a letter to every NFL GM explaining how much football meant to him.
Mauti also has the collegiate body of work to back it up. As a senior, he was named first-team All-Big Ten and a first-team All-American by ESPN.
Mauti will be joined by former Penn State teammates center Matt Stankiewitch and defensive tackle Jordan Hill -- also All-Big Ten honorees this season -- and linebacker Gerald Hodges, who led the Nittany Lions with 109 tackles.
From the Division II ranks, California (Pa.) defensive back Rontez Miles will hope to make an impression on NFL teams at the combine.
First Published February 20, 2013 12:00 am