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Dave Hickman: Waiting for the phone to ring

MORGANTOWN — College football players often daydream about hearing their name called during the NFL draft. The cold, hard reality is that most don’t.

That’s OK, though. For most it’s enough just to hear the phone ring after the draft is over. And for the majority of West Virginia’s draft-eligible players, that’s what this weekend will be about — waiting for the phone to ring.

The NFL conducts its fully-overblown and ridiculously-hyped draft this weekend, beginning with tonight’s first round, sliding into Friday’s second and third rounds and finishing Saturday with the fourth through seventh rounds.

Charles Sims is likely to hear his name Friday or Saturday. Ditto Will Clarke. Perhaps if he’s lucky, Darwin Cook will see his name flash toward the end of the exercise.

Just about everyone else knows it’s a long shot. But that doesn’t mean they won’t have a chance to make an NFL roster. Beginning shortly after the draft ends, NFL teams will sign even more players than they just drafted.

“Hopefully I hear my name called,’’ former WVU linebacker Doug Rigg. “But if not, hopefully somebody just calls me.’’

Rigg will almost certainly get a call. So will guys like Pat Eger and Curtis Feigt. Ivan McCartney’s phone might ring.

As will Shaq Rowell’s.

“Hopefully I get a call during the draft,’’ Rowell said. “But if not, I’m going to pick the team that’s best for me.’’

For some players, that’s almost as good as being drafted. Sure, it’s better to hear your name called than to wait for a phone call. Drafted players, at least those in the later rounds, aren’t guaranteed anything beyond that of free agents — a chance to prove themselves and make someone’s roster or practice squad. But if free agents do have any sort of advantage, it’s that for some they can pick and choose their destinations.

So what if a guy isn’t drafted? Don Barclay wasn’t drafted and was a starter at right tackle for the Packers by the end of his rookie season in 2012.

“If you’re a player, they’re going to find you,’’ Rowell said. “All I need is one team to fall in love with me. That’s all I’m looking for.’’

Rowell will have to do it the hard way, though. He wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine or to any all-star games after finishing his two-year career as West Virginia’s nose tackle, but he actually found a way to put a silver lining on that.

“A lot of good people get passed over,’’ Rowell said. “It is what it is. I wasn’t able to go, but I was able to rest up more than guys who went to the Combine. I had an extra two or three weeks to get my times down [before WVU’s pro day in March]. It was a blessing for me because I wasn’t fully healed from the season.’’

Rigg was in a similar situation. He didn’t even play half of last season because of concussions and then wasn’t invited to the Combine or to any postseason games. But one look at him at WVU’s pro day was enough to tell he was in perhaps the best shape of his life.

“I only weigh two pounds more than I did during the season,’’ Rigg said. “But I just feel a lot stronger and a lot better.’’

For those on the fringe like Rigg and Rowell, the past few months have been dedicated to getting in shape and preparing to show what they can do. There are no guarantees any of it will pay off, but you don’t have a chance unless you try.

“There were times when I didn’t think it was worth all the work,’’ Rowell said. “But once you go through it and go through pro day and show people what you can do, I feel like all the hard work is going to pay off.’’

Even if he has to start from scratch as an undrafted free agent?

“I’m used to that, from the time I came out of high school and couldn’t play at Ohio State and then going to junior college and then here,’’ Rowell said. “I’m used to everybody telling me what Shaq can’t do. But my favorite thing to do is prove people wrong. I like to shut people up.’’

Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickman1@aol.com or follow him at twitter.com/dphickman1


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