The View From Pluto: An Ashland Walk-On Who's Now the NFL's Most Unlikely Prospect
This week, top college football prospects will be working to impress NFL coaches and staff at the annual combine. Among them is an Ashland University player who’s taken an unlikely path to the top. WKSU commentator Terry Pluto talks to Amanda Rabinowitz about Adam Shaheen.
Measuring skills and brains
This week, about 150 NFL prospects are putting their skills on display in Indianapolis at the NFL Scouting Combine. The players perform physical and mental tests in front of NFL coaches, general managers and scouts.
Pluto says one purpose of the event is that it’s a truth-teller: “Important data they get from there is how big these guys really are because you cannot believe the sizes that the colleges list. Usually they make the players taller and stronger. So, you find out if a quarterback really is 6’3” or is actually 6’1."
And he says other important component is to measure the players’ physicality. “A lot of these guys have had injuries and surgeries and you want to know what kind of medical shape these guys are in.”
There’s also the Wonderlic test, which the NFL uses as its benchmark cognitive ability exam. And, teams are allowed to interview each player for 15 minutes. “So, a lot of these guys are doing 20 to 25 interviews.”
This week, the Browns’ Joe Thomas tweeted, “Sorry 2 the suckers that have to go to the cattle auction this week! Don't forget to lie to teams and say how much ‘fun’ it is!”
Ashland's Shaheen takes center stage
One of the players invited to the NFL combine is Ashland University tight end Adam Shaheen. Pluto says, “I’ve never seen a combine story like this.”
“He was a basketball and football player at Big Walnut High School in Sunbury, Ohio, outside Columbus.
He had one scholarship offer at a school Pluto had never heard of -- University of Pittsburgh Johnstown. “He went there as a freshman and averaged 5 points on the basketball team and found out he missed football and liked it better.”
So, Pluto says Shaheen talked to his high school coaches who knew Ashland University football coach Lee Owens. Owens agreed to interview him, but passed on offering the 6’6”, roughly 215-pound Shaheen a scholarship.
So, Shaheen decided to walk-on the team in 2014.
“His first year he caught two passes, basically learning how to play football,” Pluto says.
“In 2015, he goes from third string to first string and catches 70 passes. Now he’s a very good Division II football player and maybe just a little bit of a blip on the NFL radar screen.
"In 2016, he continues to play better and he’s now up to 270 lbs. He’s fast. NFL scouts are starting to show up at Ashland.”
Pluto says Shaheen turned into a Division II All-American and an Academic All-American with a 3.9 GPA in finance.
“So now, suddenly NFL teams have interest in him. He’s 22 and could actually come back to Ashland for another year, but he decided to turn pro and accept an invitation to the combine.”
Pluto says Ashland University long has had a solid football program. The Browns have one AU alum, Jamie Meder. “It’s one of these really good, small-college programs and Lee Owens is a respected coach – previously as an assistant at Ohio State and head coach at University of Akron.”
Pluto says he agrees with many draft experts that Shaheen will impress coaches and scouts in at the combine in Indianapolis.
“No one could imagine this. He’s going to be drafted, even though it may be in a later round.”