NFL takes shape for Armstrong

Morgan State player looks to improve conditioning

June 29, 2007|By Sirage Yassin | Sirage Yassin,Sun Reporter

Morgan State defensive tackle Robert Armstrong spent 10 days recently training in California weather - breezy and around 70 degrees - preparing for next month's NFL supplemental draft.

Armstrong flew back to Baltimore two days ago, eager to show the NFL he is ready to play football at the next level. What he wasn't ready for, however, was showing it in yesterday's 90-plus degree temperatures and lung-tightening humidity.

But the former University of Maryland starter had to press on as he worked out for eight NFL scouts at Morgan State, performing drills similar to those at the league's scouting combine. Afterward, the consensus about the 6-foot-4, 319-pound player was that he has NFL potential, especially with his size, but that he needs to improve his conditioning.

"I wouldn't call it a blown-away workout. I'd call it a workout where he showed some athletic ability," New Orleans Saints director of college scouting Rick Reiprish said.

Reiprish, who directed most of the drills as other scouts helped, said it's hard to say where - and if - Armstrong will go in the July 12 draft. But he said that some team will consider taking him.

"If a team needs a defensive lineman, I'd say they might take a chance at drafting him," Reiprish said.

No team is required to make a selection in the supplemental draft. The draft is conducted to allow underclassmen who did not apply for early entry before the January deadline for the April draft and now find themselves ineligible for the upcoming college season a chance to be selected. If a team uses a pick, it must give up its choice in the same round of next year's NFL draft.

Just 34 players have been taken since the NFL instituted the supplemental draft in 1977. Quarterback Bernie Kosar was the Cleveland Browns' first-round pick in the 1985 supplemental draft, and wide receiver Cris Carter was chosen by the Philadelphia Eagles in the fourth round in 1987. Former University of Virginia linebacker Ahmad Brooks was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals in the third round of last year's draft, the only player chosen from an available seven.

Armstrong, who transferred to Morgan State in 2006, would not say why he left Maryland, though it has been reported that he departed because he was academically ineligible after the 2005 season. He played two seasons, 2003 and 2004, but missed the 2005 season because of a back injury.

Morgan State coach Donald Hill-Eley said Armstrong called him about transferring. Hill-Eley said he never really got into Armstrong's situation at Maryland, saying only that Armstrong told him he wanted a change, and Hill-Eley gladly obliged.

Armstrong's presence was evident immediately, as Morgan State led the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference last season in rushing defense, allowing just 3.4 yards per attempt. Hill-Eley said Armstrong was the main reason for that success, and said he would have loved to have him for another year.

"Robert did a good job of solidifying that middle for us and added some leadership we needed," Hill-Eley said. "I think he has a legitimate shot at the NFL."

Armstrong performed outdoors and indoors yesterday, with little rest between drills. He ran the 40-yard dash in 5.0 seconds and was never asked to repeat a drill, normally a good sign when performing for scouts.

After an hour outside, Armstrong headed to the weight room to showcase his specialty: the bench press. Hill-Eley said Armstrong normally puts up 31 repetitions at 225 pounds, but an unofficial total yesterday was in the mid-20s, varying among scouts, because Armstrong wasn't allowed to keep his first few reps for failing to extend fully.

Nevertheless, he said he felt good about his chances in next month's draft, and said if he is not selected, he is confident a team will pick him up for the start of NFL training camps.

"They told me I have all the physical abilities to play in the NFL," Armstrong said of the scouts. "The one thing I have to work on is getting in better shape; that was the main thing."

sirage.yassin@baltsun.com

Robert Armstrong

Position -- Defensive tackle

Height -- 6 feet 4

Weight -- 319 pounds

Colleges -- Maryland, 2003-2005; Morgan State, 2006

High school -- Washington-Lee in Arlington, Va.

Career highlights -- Armstrong played two seasons at Maryland, getting into 23 games and making 28 tackles. He missed the 2005 season with a back injury. He transferred to Morgan State in 2006, playing in 10 games and recording 15 tackles - seven for loss - and five sacks.

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