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Rockets hope to be picked in NFL Draft

Managing Editor

Published: Thursday, April 26, 2012

Updated: Thursday, April 26, 2012 04:04

When Eric Page made the decision in January to bypass his senior season, the Rockets all-time leading receiver seemed like a lock to be chosen in the 2012 NFL Draft. Page, however, is not the only Rocket hoping to hear his name called.

The multi-talented Page (WR/KR/PR) said he was projected to be nabbed as a mid-round pick after declaring before turning in a disappointing performance at the NFL Combine.

Scouts then showed up to watch Page on UT’s Pro Day, though his only major drill was the 40-yard dash as he tried to improve upon his combine time of 4.6 seconds. Page trimmed his 40 time to 4.49 seconds, but the story of the day may have been his teammates Mike VanDerMeulen, Desmond Marrow and Adonis Thomas emerging as draft darkhorses.

Two-time All-MAC left tackle VanDerMeulen was an anchor up front for an offense that finished eighth in the country with 42.2 points per game in 2011.

A first-unit player in all 50 of his games at Toledo, he is the only left tackle to start all four years for the Rockets since former Patriot Nick Kaczur (2001-04).

The 6-foot-7, 300 pounder showed off an astounding 32.5 inch vertical leap and ran a 5.08 40-yard dash. Among the 47 lineman at the NFL Combine, those totals would rank him second and fifth, respectively.

 “I think I surprised some people with my athleticism, which is what I wanted to do,” VanDerMeulen said. “It definitely benefited me.”

Marrow, who had 71 tackles and a team-high three interceptions his senior year, also upped his draft stock at UT’s Pro Day. At 6-foot-2, the First-Team All-MAC honoree possesses unusual size for a cornerback which made his 4.49 40-yard dash all the more impressive.

Scouts found Marrow’s 40 time and performance in other drills so outstanding, in fact, that he has since worked out for the Dolphins, Texans, 49ers and Seahawks.

While Marrow has drawn the attention of NFL squads, there is no doubt that teams have reviewed his injury history. The sixth-year senior missed two full seasons and part of another at UT while suffering from hamstring and knee injuries.

“The teams that were at my Pro Day saw me moving around well,” Marrow said. “I haven’t heard much about the injuries since.”

Thomas is another former Rocket who understands the impact an injury can have on a player’s draft stock. The shifty running back missed three games in 2011 after breaking his arm in the first quarter of the controversial loss to Syracuse.

“Any injury your senior year will draw a red flag for a team,” Thomas said. “When people invest millions of dollars they want to make sure they get the best player possible with the least amount of mileage on his body. I think if it was knee or a leg injury a lot of teams would have been afraid to deal with me because it would probably hamper me later in my career. I think because it was my arm everybody is going to look past that.”

Thomas’ bounce-back performance should help teams overlook his relatively minor injury. Despite missing time, Thomas still finished with 12 touchdowns, leading all UT rushers with 1,071 yards and picked up Second-Team All-MAC accolades.

His career numbers speak for themselves too. Thomas finished ninth on UT’s career rushing list (2,325 yards) and tied for first in yards per carry (6.1) with eight-year NFL veteran Chester Taylor.

“[The stats] show teams that I don’t really need a lot to get good results,” Thomas said. “I don’t need that many attempts to get going and I bring a lot of versatility.”

That versatility was also on display at Toledo’s Pro Day when Thomas turned in a 4.41 40-yard dash and displayed his exceptional route running ability to earn workouts with the Jets and Giants.

Each of these former Rockets have shown they have a legitimate shot at joining Page among the 36 Toledo alumni who have already been chosen in the NFL Draft. But should they not, they will in all likelihood be grabbed in free agency.

Don’t forget, six of the eight former UT players currently on NFL rosters went undrafted.

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