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Archive for Tuesday, April 16, 1996

KU GUYS IN NFL DRAFT NOTES

April 16, 1996

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It's all over now except for the wait.

Over the past few weeks, Kansas University's professional football hopefuls have been poked, prodded, probed, clocked, measured, grilled and tested. They've been investigated and interrogated, examined and exhausted.

After weeks of answering and reanswering every imaginable question, all that's left is the big one: What does the NFL draft hold in store?

"It's going to be a long week for me," said cornerback Dorian Brew, one of KU's top pro football prospects. "I'm just trying to stay busy. There's a lot of things going through your mind. I'm a little nervous."

And why not? When the NFL holds its annual draft on Saturday and Sunday at The Theatre in New York City's Madison Square Garden, Brew's dream will become reality ... or it won't.

The so-called draft "experts" agreed to disagree on the Jayhawks' chances in the draft. The most favorable draft analysis -- provided by the computer-driven OURLAD's draft service -- predicts that four Jayhawks will be taken at some point during the seven-round draft. OURLAD's predicts that Brew and offensive tackle Rod Jones will go during the second round, and offensive guard Chris Banks and running back L.T. Levine will be taken early in the sixth round.

The most negative predictions come from ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr., who rates Brew and Jones as the 17th-best players at their positions, Banks at No. 18 and Levine at No. 29.

And Joel Buchbaum checks in somewhere in the middle, predicting early third-round picks for Jones and Banks.

"You listen to it, but you're never really sure," Levine said of the draftniks' picks. "You really don't know until the day of the draft."

"It's all speculation," Jones added. "When it's positive, you want to hear it. When's it's negative, you don't. You can't put too much into it, because the teams don't even know until draft day."

Brew, Jones, Banks, Levine and punter Darrin Simmons -- all key ingredients to KU's 10-2 season last fall -- are KU's best draft prospects. Quarterback Mark Williams, the team MVP, is a long-shot.

But, as Jones says, it's all speculation.

The players have different takes on draft week. Williams, for example, refuses to discuss the draft.

"I don't know what's going to happen. I might get drafted, sign as a free agent or go Canadian," he said. "It's a big thing. It's what I've waited my whole life for. But I don't want to talk about it. Call me after the draft."

Banks, meanwhile, is burying himself in schoolwork.

"As long as I've been playing football, I've been working toward the NFL," he said. "I have a feeling I will get drafted, but who knows? I'm really not nervous. I'm more worried about schoolwork than the NFL. I have to get ahead on one then wait on the other."

Ah, yes, the waiting game.

All of KU's draft hopefuls will head home to be with family and friends this weekend. They'll watch and TV and hope for the phone to ring.

"I've been looking forward to this for 20 years," said Simmons, who, though he is ranked the nation's top punter by at least two draft services, is a long-shot to be drafted simply because few teams will spend a draft pick on a punter. "It's been a long couple of weeks, the uncertainty of not knowing what your future holds. If something doesn't work out, I want to get something else lined up.

"To tell you the truth I would love to get drafted, but I don't look to get drafted. I would think I'd hopefully sign as a free agent. Teams are scared this year about drafting a punter basically because Bears took a kid from West Virginia last year in the second round. He had the worst average in the NFL and teams will be worried about that."

Williams was the only one of the six Jayhawk draft hopefuls who did not attend the NFL combine, a week-long meat market of potential NFL talent. All six entertained NFL scouts at prearranged workouts at KU over the past few weeks.

All that's left is the draft itself.

"Ever since I was little," Levine said, "I'd watch 'em play on Sundays, hoping someday I'd be in that position. It's exciting."

"I'll be graduating in May," Jones added. "I don't mean to belittle the graduation thing. But, basically, this is my whole life. This most definitely is a dream. Only 2 percent of all college athletes make it to the pros. To be in this position ... it's almost hard to believe."

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