This story originally appeared at Pittsburgh Sports Now, our home for WPIAL and college football coverage.
Western Pennsylvania contains a rich history of football, continually producing top talent as a pipeline through the NFL Draft. Countless players from the area have heard their name called on draft day, and 2019 may see one more player added to that list.
Only a few days after capturing the MVP award of the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, Slippery Rock running back Wes Hills finds himself continuing to get closer to achieving his dream of being selected in the NFL Draft.
Hills, who rushed for a touchdown and 78 yards in Saturday’s MVP performance at the Rose Bowl, now can be found on the field of Ladd-Peebles Stadium ahead of college football’s most coveted all-star game, the Reese’s Senior Bowl.
“I always watched the Senior Bowl when I was in high school, and I always said ‘I wanna play in that one day’… Now I’m blessed with the opportunity and I gotta make the most of it” said Hills during a media day interview on Tuesday.
Hills is one of six running backs at the Senior Bowl, who divides their teams into respective North/South squads. Playing on the South team, Hills is one of three players to play at a division II school here in Mobile alongside Corey Ballentine (Washburn) and John Cominsky (Charleston).
When asked if coming from a smaller school added any extra pressure or motivation, Hills wasn’t afraid to tell it like it is:
“They’re men just like me, they breathe just like me. We all here for the same reason. I’m gonna line-up against you, you’re gonna line up against me… football is a man’s sport”.
On opening day of the 2018 season, 83 DII players were on an NFL roster. The Pittsburgh Steelers, playing just an hour drive away from Slippery Rock, held two of those players in Matt Feiler and Marcus Tucker. With Le’Veon Bell set to leave free agency, the Steelers may very well look in their back yard for a running back.
The Slippery Rock product appears confident in himself, but knows the importance of Senior Bowl week and everything else required to solidify his chances of going pro.
“You have to be able to test well, testing is big. Playing well in this game is going to be big. I was able to make most of my opportunity at the NFLPA game, and I’m hoping to continue that momentum into this week of practice, as well as the game. My focus is just taking it one play at a time, one drive at a time, one day at a time.” said Hills.
Despite playing out of a small school, Hills has all but handled the big stages he’s been on thus far, and will look to carry his great performances into the deep stages of the draft process.
The Senior Bowl will be played on Saturday, January 26th at 2:30 PM ET on NFL Network.
Report: NFL to Make Significant Changes to Combine Due to COVID-19
Major changes to the 2021 NFL Scouting Combine are expected amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
According to a report by Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, plans of hosting the combine as traditionally constructed are “dead” following a conference call between league officials Friday. It is becoming increasingly likely that the medical and performance-based portions of the event will be held separately.
A number of alternatives are being considered, including regionalized medical checks, standardized pro days and interviews conducting via Zoom.
With regards to the regional medicals, the NFL could set up shop and administer the examinations at hospital in states where a large number of players are conducting their workouts and preparation, such as Arizona, California, Florida and Texas.
The intent would be to limit travel for players, where as the team physicians conducting the examinations would likely have already received their vaccinations.
Other aspects of the medical process can be accomplished virtually, such as reviewing injury histories.
As for the pro days, NFL or individual team personnel would put players through drills at their respective schools, but standardize each workout to ensure prospects are going through the same exercises as they would in Indianapolis. Measurements and result would then be distributed league-wide as they normally would be.
League officials will continue to meet over the coming days, according to Breer, but a finalized plan is expected later this coming week.
The NFL has also weighed the option of postponing the combine until April, but still holding it in Indianapolis. While it is on the table, the move would likely requirement the 2021 NFL Draft to be postponed as well.
Steelers Clinch No. 24 Pick in 2021 NFL Draft
Following their opening round playoff loss to the Cleveland Browns, the Pittsburgh Steelers now know where they will be selecting in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Pittsburgh now owns the No. 24-overall selection in April’s draft.
Updated 2021 NFL Draft order after Super Wild Card Weekend:— NFL Draft (@NFLDraft) January 11, 2021
19) Washington Football Team
23) Jets (via Seahawks)
A number of needs and questions plague the Steelers as they enter the offseason and turn their attention toward the draft process, with multiple directions they can go with their first round pick. Offensive line, running back and cornerback all appear viable options for the Steelers at No. 24.
The Steelers have not had a first round selection since trading up to draft inside linebacker Devin Bush with the tenth-overall pick in 2018. Pittsburgh did not have a first rounder in last year’s draft, sending it to the Miami Dolphins in 2019 to acquire safety Minkah Fitzpatrick.
The draft is scheduled to be held from April 29 to May 1 in Cleveland, Ohio, though it’s unclear if that will come to pass or if the draft will once again be held virtually, as the 2020 NFL Draft was.
Mic Drop: Adam Zielonka of Washington Times on McFarland, Brooks
Instead of trading for a proven running back like Leonard Fournette, the Steelers simply drafted a rookie with their 4th round pick. That rookie is Anthony McFarland out of the University of Maryland. To fully explain what McFarland brings to the table, Mike Asti was joined by Adam Zielonka, who is a sports reporter for the Washington Times. Zielonka also touched Antoine Brooks, the other Maryland product drafted by the Steelers.