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.
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.
Colbert Explains Why He Wanted Three Rounds Added to 2020 Draft
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert is offering an explanation as to why he wanted three rounds added to the 2020 NFL Draft.
Speaking with NBC Sport’s Mike Florio on the PFT PM podcast Tuesday, Colbert took the opportunity to clarify his suggestion.
“The reasoning was, part of it was selfish,” Colbert said. “You wanted to have a safety net because we’re dealing with less information, and the more picks you have, maybe you’ll have a little bit of a safety net again.”
With the league’s self-implemented travel restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, clubs were unable to conduct their normal scouting activities prior to the Draft. This included Pro Days, private workouts and in-person interviews.
Less opportunities to watch and speak with prospects results in a larger margin for error.
Colbert went on to say that it also would have benefited some of the fringe prospects in the Draft that never had the chance to showcase themselves at a Pro Day or other setting.
“The other thing was it would give the marginal player that didn’t get his opportunity to go to a Pro Day and to perform. Maybe there will be more players drafted and then those players will then again have the chance they might not get.”
Now without rookie minicamps, the challenges are mounting for clubs and NFL hopefuls.
“Every year a team might stumble upon a tryout player,” Colbert said. “Maybe if we ever get on the field, we can think of a way to help those because there’s a big group of players that aren’t getting opportunities because of the situation.”
Colbert reminded Florio that the Steelers discovered Devlin “Duck” Hodges as a tryout in camp last year.
It is unclear when teams will be allowed to return to the practice field for their offseason programs, with clubs currently conducting theirs entirely from home.
Mic Drop: NFL Draft Recap Show
It was eat, sleep, draft coverage, repeat for Mike Asti and the Steelers Now crew this past week. And now that the draft is over, Mike Asti evaluates each pick and gives his thoughts on some moves he says the Steelers should have made.