Tough wait for Polley, 2 Terps

Dunbar grad, Jordan, Jenkins local hopefuls

2 others have a shot

2001 NFL Draft

April 19, 2001|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

Expect NFL teams to select at least three former college players with local ties when the draft begins Saturday.

Former Dunbar High and Florida State star Tommy Polley will probably go in the first two rounds, as, it is likely, will former Maryland stars LaMont Jordan and Kris Jenkins. Fellow Terps Shawn Forte and Matt Kalipinski may be drafted in later rounds on Sunday.

Polley, Jordan and Jenkins all have abilities that would normally make a first-round selection certain this weekend, but each has had certain problems to overcome this winter that might have sent them skidding down the draft list.

Polley, a first-team All-ACC linebacker and Butkus Award semifinalist, intends to watch the draft in East Baltimore, where he grew up and starred as a football and basketball player in high school before moving onto Florida State.

"I've been dreaming about this since I was 7 or 8 years old," said Polley, who is expected to be selected by the end of the first round or the beginning of the second. "Everything I've worked hard for is about to come true on Saturday. ... That's a day I can tell my mom that I can buy her a house and things like that."

Everyone likes Polley's 4.6-second speed in the 40-yard-dash and his nose for the ball. And thanks to a gain in weight, he should be able to buy his mother a better house than he might have after the Senior Bowl in January. During that week, with NFL scouts watching, Polley weighed in at 218 pounds, five pounds lighter than his normal 223 figure that is already wispy for a professional linebacker.

"I was kind of shocked," he said, while admitting that he was able to get away with poor nutrition during college. Later, at Florida State's pro day on March 17, he weighed in at 235.

Jenkins intends to watch the draft from his home in Ypsilanti, Mich. Like Polley, he will do so without concern about where he might be picked.

The 6-foot-4, 315-pound defensive tackle will simply be glad to be off the road, where he had spent most of the last two weeks when he wasn't in College Park.

Jacksonville, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Chicago, Buffalo and Cleveland all flew him in for individual interviews and workouts. He described the experience as "long and boring when you're traveling from place to place on a plane."

At the same time, the flights wouldn't have been necessary if Jenkins weren't being considered as a first- or second-round draft pick, which he is because NFL teams like, for one thing, his quickness. Jenkins runs the 40 in 4.9, a good time for a man his size.

"He has top 15 talent," said Louisiana-based draft expert Matthew Gambill, who thought Jenkins could go as high as the 20th pick. "Down the line, you're going to look at him and say, `How did he drop so far.' "

Jenkins' awards - or lack thereof - provide an answer, his highest honor being a second-team all-ACC selection for making eight sacks in 2000. The other three years featured a reputation for taking plays, quarters and sometimes games off.

Jenkins - perhaps the most affable player on the Maryland team last year - accepted the criticism.

"It's on me," he said. "I held myself back. I don't think it was anyone else. It was one of those things where I've got to change."

Jenkins followed his solid senior season by opening the eyes of NFL scouts at the Senior Bowl. He then confirmed this with strong performances at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis and at Maryland's pro day last month.

Jordan, a projected first-rounder after rushing for more than 1,600 yards in 1999, stumbled first when he ran into academic troubles that kept him out of 2000 spring practice, then again in the fall when he reported out of shape and scouts began questioning his work ethic. He also was hobbled with injuries for much of the 2000 regular season.

"To hear about the work ethic thing, that's the biggest surprise for me. I would think that after a while that it would have stopped and people would look at what I did my junior year," said Jordan.

Jordan, who was named to the All-ACC second team this past season, countered questions about his fitness, work ethic and coachability with fabulous workouts during the winter that brought him back to the cusp of first-round status.

In front of 42 scouts on Maryland's pro day, Jordan ran the 40 in 4.39, had a vertical jump of 38.5 inches and did 24 bench-press repetitions with 225 pounds. On that day, he weighed in at 232, and proved his ability to receive out of the backfield by catching 27 of 30 balls thrown to him.

"They [the scouts] were pretty much salivating," said Maryland's head strength conditioner, Dwight Gault, who set up the workout that included all of Maryland's players, plus Towson defensive end Andrew Hollingsworth.

Gault saw the attention as a sign that talent is getting better at Maryland.

"It's not Florida State, but we're getting to the point where we're getting a lot of guys in the program who are NFL-quality players," he said.

At a glance

When: Saturday (rounds 1-3) and Sunday (rounds 4-7)

TV: ESPN (Saturday, noon-7 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.), ESPN2 (Saturday, 7 p.m. to conclusion; Sunday, 1 p.m. to conclusion)

Ravens picks: First round, 31st overall; second round, 62nd; third round, 92nd; fourth round, 126th; fifth round, 161st; sixth round, 194th; seventh round, 231st

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