Small-town Illinois safety McWethy longing for NFL chance

Jeff Reynolds, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

Twenty-four hours after defensive backs were the main attraction in workouts before hundreds of scouts at the nationally televised NFL Scouting Combine, free safety Ryan McWethy of Wisconsin-Platteville began another day in relative anonymity, ultimately fixed on catching the right scout's eye.
"I wasn't able to watch any of it," said McWethy, a 6-1, 218-pound safety and team captain didn't want to predict results for his own 40-yard dash, or offer an educate guesstimate on how many reps of 225 he might do for scouts March 6.
"I'm up in Milwaukee training for my pro day. I don't have TV here, so I haven't been able to watch too much. But I saw all the numbers, what they threw up."
The defensive backs invited to Indianapolis have the better part of three days to make some kind of impact on scouts and talent evaluators, either in interviews or on the field. That's not the way it works for DIII prospects.
Truth be told, McWethy isn't an unknown in this draft. He was coming out of tiny Oregon High School, a Class AAA school in north central Illinois about 70 minutes from Chicago. When scouts first began tracking him, he was already in college. They do wonder why he wasn't recruited to a bigger program based on his talent, but that's more of an indictment of the schools that didn't pay attention four years ago.
"We had a good football team, but such a small school, not too many people look our way for athletes," he said.
He began gaining interest as a junior after an 18-tackle performance. Ten teams met with him or watched him in person last season, including the Cowboys, Patriots, Ravens and Vikings. About 20 teams have talked to the Platteville coaching staff and McWethy has met personally with 13 teams.
Tuesday was the day the defensive backs among the 333 players invited to the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine made their mark. Top-ranked cornerback Dee Milliner ran a sub-4.4 40-yard dash and nailed down a spot in the draft's top 10. McWethy would settle for any spot in the top 250. Or a draft-day deal as an undrafted free agent. Of course, if neither scenario plays out, he's not the type to hang up the helmet. He'll continue to pursue football opportunities.
McWethy is training with Brad Arnett at NX Level Athletics. Arnett is trainer to former Wisconsin All-American and 2012 Houston Texans All-Pro J.J. Watt.
The story of the small town kid isn't new to the region, and McWethy said his father is religously combing for information on what McWethy's competition has done in workouts and otherwise. Fourth-round pick Sean Considine, a safety who played special teams for the Super Bowl-winning Ravens earlier this month, played a few miles up the road at Byron High School. Considine, a local legend because of his NFL calling, had the natural boost of playing in the Big Ten at Iowa. He was able to lend his first-hand knowledge to McWethy.
McWethy's workout will again raise the nagging question of level of competition -- but in another way. Has his work cut out for him grabbing the attention of evaluators there primarily noting the peformance of the University of Wisconsin prospects in Madison. Last year, several Wisconsin players were drafted.
But the potential for exposure gleaned at the Badgers' pro day -- obviously far greater in comparision to what the lower-division Pioneers experienced on game days -- should serve McWethy well. It might be the difference between becoming a seventh-round pick or priority free agent and being added to a camp roster early in the summer.
"As of right now I think all of my numbers put up in training are right where I need to be, I think I'll catch the eye of quite a few scouts if I keep doing what I should be doing," he said.
There's no denying McWethy has progressed in the past year, since he first learned from his head coach NFL teams requested three game tapes (though defensive coordinator Rob Erickson was trying to send the highlight reel without informing McWethy). However, if the phone doesn't ring by the end of the seventh round of the draft in April, McWethy will be in the same place he was Wednesday.
"Hoping I get picked up and go into a rookie camp," he said. "Get an opportunity to show what I can do. Hopefully some team gives me a shot."

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