Could NU football players go pro?
    Production by Alexis Sanchez / North by Northwestern. Photos by Katie Tang, Lauren Maddox, Dan Schuleman / North by Northwestern.

    With the official NFL Scouting Combine invitations now finalized, only one Wildcat has made the list. As a late addition, tight end/fullback Drake Dunsmore will be the only Northwestern player with the opportunity to impress scouts in Indianapolis later this month. For seven other Northwestern seniors with NFL aspirations, the primary focus is now Northwestern’s pro day in early March. 

    Safety Brian Peters said he isn’t deterred by the lack of an invitation to the combine. “It just gives me more time to train,” Peters said. “That extra week to train can always help.” Peters led the team in tackles during his final two seasons at Northwestern and intercepted five passes as a senior, earning him All-Big Ten First Team honors. He has been training in Chicago with wide receiver Jeremy Ebert and defensive tackle Jack DiNardo at TCBOOST, a facility that has helped a number of Northwestern alums reach the NFL, including Corey Wootton, Corbin Bryant and Sherrick McManus.

    Jordan Mabin, pictured here defending Minnesota's Da'Jon McKnight, is working his way back from injury. Photo by Kimberly Alters / North by Northwestern

    Like Peters, cornerback Jordan Mabin isn’t worried about not attending the combine. “[Not getting invited] helps us just focus for pro day,” Mabin said. “It would have been nice to go to the combine, but it’s not the end of the world.” Due to a torn pectoral muscle suffered against Michigan State, Mabin likely couldn’t have attended the combine even if he had been invited and will likely have his own pro day later in March.

    Other Northwestern seniors are looking for positives in not receiving combine invitations. Offensive lineman Al Netter points out that many players — 34 to be exact — were selected in the NFL Draft who did not attend the 2011 Combine. While most of those players were drafted in the seventh and final round, two went in the fourth and two more went in the fifth.

    Netter also said the lack of invitations could be a blessing in disguise, because it could lead to increased exposure for the group of seniors as a whole. For the seven players who won’t be at the combine, Northwestern’s pro day will be the only opportunity for scouts to see them. Netter said that any scouts who come to see one specific player may end up being impressed by another. “If someone who is really interested in Dan Persa comes out and sees that [someone] runs really fast and runs really well, he may jump on their board,” Netter said.

    In other efforts to grab scouts’ attention, Netter, quarterback Dan Persa and defensive end Vince Browne each played in a postseason all-star game on Jan. 21, while Browne and wide receiver Jeremy Ebert will be attending an NFL regional combine in Chicago on March 3.

    Jeremy Ebert could make his chances with a great pro day performance. Photo by Kimberly Alters / North by Northwestern

    As a receiver with excellent technique but without top-flight athleticism, Ebert has a greater chance to boost his stock with a big performance. He said the results of the regional combine and the pro day will provide significant clarity to players’ statuses as the draft approaches in April.

    “Right now, you don’t really get an idea of where you stand,” Ebert said. “After the combines and pro days, when all the numbers are out there, that’s when agents can get the best sense from the scouts on where they project you and see you, and how certain teams feel about you.”

    Netter finds the current speculation about draft statuses premature, despite hearing rumors that he could be drafted as high as the fifth round. “It’s not even worth any of our time to think too much about it,” Netter said. “We all just have to work our butts off from here until the pro day, give it our best and hopefully teams will give us a shot.”

    While these seniors are set on playing in the NFL, if that opportunity never arrives or a professional career never develops, some say they might consider professional football elsewhere.

    “Who knows what the possibilities are out there?” Mabin said. “If [a different professional league] is where I’m headed, so be it. But, right now, the NFL is the goal.”

    Brian Peters is staying optimistic, but he has his sights set on the NFL. Photo by Kimberly Alters / North by Northwestern

    Peters also said he is focused entirely on the NFL, but may consider other options in the future. “I’m putting my heart into trying to make it into the NFL,” he said. “But if the [Canadian Football League] or [United Football League] are byproducts of that, I’ll play it by ear.”

    For Ebert however, this is his final hurrah in football. “If I get an opportunity to play at the next level, that’s going to be it,” Ebert said. “I don’t think I’m going to pursue it if I don’t make it this year." 

    Browne, who has been working out in Arizona, said he doesn’t even want to consider any alternatives to the NFL. After fantastic sophomore and junior campaigns, Browne had a quiet senior season and could use his athleticism to boost his stock. “I’m going to play in the NFL,” he said. “All I can do right now is show up and perform to the best of my ability and put myself in a good position to get drafted.”


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