As the importance of both summer combines and 7-on-7 tournaments continue to grow, a position specific camp in Oregon is trying to highlight an oft-overlooked sector of high school football players: The really big boys.
The 2011 Metro Area Lineman Challenge, which brought together top prep lineman from around the Portland area, was hosted at Tulatin (Ore.) High on Saturday. As chronicled in great length by OregonLive.com, eight different teams of linemen were put through drills that ran the gamut from the traditional sprints and jumps used at nearly all prospect combines to events that are more commonly used in "World's Strongest Man" competitions.
What were those more offbeat challenges, you ask? Just try putting top wide receivers and quarterbacks through these events:
• The tractor tire flip contest
• The farmer carry
• The sled push relay
And, finally, the coup de grace: Good old fashioned tug of war.
Clearly, these were feats of strength meant to test very strong men. That's only fitting for an event which consciously focuses only on players who earn their supper by pulling and pushing in the trenches, opening up holes for running backs and buying time for quarterbacks.
"The whole premise of it is … the linemen work their butts off and they don't have anywhere to compete," Tulatin defensive line coach Ian Reynoso, who developed the event, told OregonLive.com. "So what this is, instead of throwing on pads and doing camps and things like that, this is a way to show what they have gained in terms of athleticism and strength.
"They can come out here on this day every year at the end of July and compete face-to-face with a lot of linemen they might smack faces with in helmets, and come out here and see how they match up against everybody else."
Reynoso said that the 2011 incarnation of the Metro Lineman Challenge is the lineman-specific combine's second run through, though he plans on making it an annual event. If there was any question that the lineman who are actually competing enjoy the event, their intensity speaks volumes.
"When you have a bunch of lineman who are usually quiet guys and you introduce competition, things start getting chippy," Reynoso told OregonLive.com. "It's still focused on moving everybody forward. I love how [the tug of war] made everyone start getting after it, cheering each other on. That was what I've been looking for in this competition."
Whether Reynoso's pet event takes off in other areas remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: the former University of Oregon lineman has delivered a unique format to test linemen during a season in which they've traditionally been almost completely overlooked. That certainly can't be a bad thing.