FOOTBALL | Elis shoot for the pros

Clockwise from top left: Safety Adam Money ’11, tight end Chris Blohm ’11, fullback Shane Bannon ’11, and defensive ends Tom McCarthy ’11 and Sean Williams ’11.
Clockwise from top left: Safety Adam Money ’11, tight end Chris Blohm ’11, fullback Shane Bannon ’11, and defensive ends Tom McCarthy ’11 and Sean Williams ’11. Photo by Max de la Bruyere.

Their college football careers ended more than four months ago, but the workouts have continued.

Fullback Shane Bannon ’11, tight end Chris Blohm ’11, safety Adam Money ’11 and defensive lineman Sean Williams ’11, who have been training together since January, performed for National Football League scouts at Yale’s pro day last Thursday with the hopes of earning a contract with a professional team. Former captain and defensive lineman Tom McCarthy ’11, who graduated after the fall semester, joined them even though he has been working out separately in New Jersey. After performing various drills for the scouts, the five will now wait to hear back from teams in the coming weeks.

“What kid doesn’t dream of playing in the NFL?” Money said. “It’s one of those things where I don’t want to look back and say I missed a shot at continuing my athletic career.”

But the jump from Yale to the NFL is a long one. The Ivy League is in the second tier of Division I college football, far removed from elite scholarship programs at large state universities where seasons and practices are longer. However, the players are not phased by those dim prospects.

“I’m not concerned that we are long shots,” Blohm said. “I couldn’t imagine not trying to play football next year. I have had a football season every fall since being very young and I want to keep that going.”

The Elis can keep their football careers going if an NFL team drafts them. But only about 250 players are drafted each year, and the last Bulldog to hear his name called was Nate Lawrie ’04, who was selected in the sixth round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It is more likely that Blohm and his teammates will sign as undrafted free agents.

But before an NFL team will spend its money on a player from a school like Yale outside of the traditional college football power hierarchy, it needs to see what differentiates him from the hundreds of other college graduates vying for their own spots. That’s where pro day comes in.

At the NFL combine and pro days at schools across the country, players run through a series of drills ranging from a 40-yard dash to a 225-pound bench press to less quantifiable positioning drills for scouts.

Bannon, Blohm, Money and Williams have been training together for those drills since January.

“It’s been the definition of a grind,” Bannon said. “We’ve been trying to get stronger and stay healthy, and we’ve had to give up that senior spring that everyone looks forward to forever while playing a varsity sport.”

The training program, which team strength and conditioning coach Emil Johnson helped the Elis design, varied for each member of the group. Bannon, who at 6 feet 2 inches tall and 265 pounds is already a big fullback, said he worked to increase his speed and turn his bad weight into good weight. Money said he tried to increase his weight but also strike a balance between bulk and speed. Blohm said his focus was on explosiveness.

That explosiveness showed last Thursday for the tight end, who bench pressed 225 pounds an eye-popping 30 times in front of scouts for the New York Giants and the New England Patriots. That performance would have placed him first among tight ends at the NFL scouting combine in late February, an invitation-only event for top draft prospects. His 40-yard dash time of 4.89 and his 35-inch vertical leap would also have put him 11th and sixth, respectively.

“I had an excited energy that made the whole day a blast,” said Blohm, who caught 26 passes for 255 yards and two touchdowns in the fall. “I was looking forward to the pro day for so long I couldn’t wait to get going.”

Blohm’s energy has impressed scouts enough that he will fly to California on April 20 to meet with coaches and work out for the San Francisco 49ers. The Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers are also showing interest in the tight end, according to the New Haven Register.

Blohm is not the only member of the group who is earning attention from scouts. Bannon looked solid last Thursday and also impressed scouts with his speed and agility at a pro day in Tolland, Connecticut the day before.

“Normally people don’t do two [pro days] in a row, but I thought that this was my best chance to play at the next level and have people see what I have to offer,” Bannon said.

Now that the Yale workout is behind them, the four Elis will wait to hear from teams and keep logging hours in the gym to maintain the strength they gained over the past three months.

“You have to think small to begin with,” Money said. “Coming out of an Ivy League school, it’s going to be tough to be drafted. It doesn’t happen often. I hope to get my foot in the door. Once I do that, I hope I have the chance to play some football in camp. And once I’m in camp, I’ll do everything I have to do to stick around.”

The NFL Draft will be held April 28-30 in New York.

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