Both seniors continue preparations for NFL Draft at Temple’s Pro Day
The Temple News
For seniors Evan Rodriguez and Tahir Whitehead, one word describes what they could offer a National Football League team: versatility.
Rodriguez and Whitehead joined former junior running back Bernard Pierce at the 2012 NFL Combine on Feb. 22-28 in Indianapolis, Ind. The North New Jersey natives can give pro clubs many options on offense and defense, respectively.
At 6-foot 1-inch, Rodriguez can be used in many ways as a tight end, whether it is off the line, coming out of the backfield or setting up out wide. The two-time first-team All-Mid-Atlantic Conference selection played in all 13 games with 12 starts at tight end last season leading the Owls with 479 yards and two touchdowns on 35 receptions.
At this point, though, Rodriguez is not worried what position he’ll play, but rather preparing for when that team calls his name. The 2012 NFL Draft is April 26-28 held at Radio City Music Hall in New York.
“Just hard training,” Rodriguez said of his preparation for the NFL Draft. “I was down in Bradenton, [Fla.] training at Athletic Edge with [combine guru] Mike Gough, and they prepared me really well for the NFL Combine and I’m happy with my results.”
Rodriguez had such strong results at the NFL Combine that he opted not to run the 40-yard dash or test his vertical jump at Temple’s Pro Day on Friday, March 16 at Edberg-Olsen Athletic Complex.
With a 40-time of 4.58 and a vertical measure of 36 inches – tied for the lead amongst tight ends – Rodriguez said he thought his performance helped his draft stock.
Scouts have compared Rodriguez to New England tight end Aaron Hernandez with his multi-dimensional abilities. Hernandez played in Temple coach Steve Addazio’s system at Florida when Addazio was offensive coordinator for the Gators.
“He does compare to him,” Addazio said. “A lot of people ask him that question. I like [Rodriguez’s] development and I like his maturity. He’s come a long way in a year or two. You talk about a guy who’s come the furthest – he’s probably come the furthest. He’s put himself in a position to be a middle-round draft pick.”
Whitehead, a 6-foot 1-inch linebacker, is a possible steal late in the draft. The second-team All-MAC honoree has been putting in time getting ready for the NFL Draft.
“I’m constantly in the weight room, constantly working on my technique,” Whitehead said. “It’s not only a track meet when you’re running [the 40-yard dash], you’re a football player. Not only do I work on the 40 and other drills and stuff, I also work on stuff for my toolbox – keeping a better base for striking opponents.”
A captain on the Owls’ defense, Whitehead registered five sacks last season and was a constant disruption in opposition’s backfield, finishing the season with the third-most tackles on the team with 70 and a team-best 13.5 tackles for loss. He played in all 13 games with 12 starts as the strong side linebacker.
Whitehead was also named the Defensive MVP of the 2011 Gildan New Mexico Bowl, in which the Owls defeated the Wyoming Cowboys, 37-15.
“[Whitehead] is very mature,” Addazio said. “You watch the growth he’s had from last year to this year, that’s that year some guys are missing.”
While this was the stage for Whitehead to display his physical attributes, he also sees it as a job interview.
“You’d get a smart player,” Whitehead said. “Not only smart, but physical, versatile. I can do it all. I can be used wherever they need me to be used. I’m a team player.”
Last year, two Owls were drafted in the 2011 NFL Draft, then-senior safety Jaiquawn Jarrett and then-junior defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson. Wilkerson was drafted as the 30th overall selection in the first round by the New York Jets and Jarrett was picked by the Philadelphia Eagles as the 54th overall selection in the second round.
Bud Weaver can be reached at email@example.com.