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Old 04-21-2008, 10:48 AM   #1
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Default WVU FB Schmitt has high hopes for NFL Draft

The NFL Draft was a mere possibility for West Virginia fullback Owen Schmitt three years ago.
Because he didn't attract Division I interest in high school, Schmitt played at Division III Wisconsin-River Falls during his freshman season. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards and earned all-conference honors, but Schmitt wasn't content.

So, he walked on at West Virginia before he earned a starting role as a sophomore. Three seasons and more than 1,000 rushing yards later, being selected in this weekend's NFL Draft is a realistic possibility, if not a guarantee, for Schmitt.

"I think the biggest thing for everyone is that, just because you're not given an opportunity at first, doesn't mean you have to give up," said Scmitt, who is being looked at as a fullback, tight end and special teams player.

West Virginia, as it turns out, was just the beginning for Schmitt. The 6-foot-3, 260-pound blocker paved the way for one of college football's most dynamic backfield duos in quarterback Pat White and running back Steve Slaton. Playing in the pros is the next logical step for Schmitt, who has met with the Kansas City Chiefs, Detroit Lions, New York Jets and Carolina Panthers at the NFL Combine and visited the Cleveland Browns, San Diego Chargers and Washington Redskins.
"My biggest goal was just to play college football," said Schmitt, who is arguably the best fullback in the draft. "Since that's over now, I'd hate to quit playing football, and the next step is professional football."

Schmitt, along with Slaton, highlights West Virginia's draft class. Eight Mountaineers could be selected, including defensive end Johnny Dingle and wide receiver Darius Reynaud, who are projected to go in the mid-rounds. Defensive tackle Keilen Dykes, free safety Ryan Mundy, linebacker Marc Magro and strong safety Eric Wicks could be late-round picks or priority free agents.

"Slaton's a third or fourth round," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. "Schmitt's probably a fourth or fifth round. Most of those guys are late rounds or free-agent types.

"(Slaton is) not that big. He's 5-9, 185 pounds. He's a situational guy. He's a change of pace guy. Those kind of backs don't normally go until the third or fourth round."

Just a season removed from finishing fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting, Slaton's stock seems to be on the decline. Kiper Jr. said he didn't drop Slaton, who opted to forgo his senior year to enter the draft, in his projections based on his sub-par junior season. Rather, he always felt Slaton was a third- or fourth-round pick because of his size.

Slaton said he hasn't met with any NFL teams, but he's had phone conversations with the Baltimore Ravens, Steelers, Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons.

Name calling
Members of the WVU football team who could hear their names on draft day, listed by name, position and projection:

Steve Slaton, RB, mid-round pick

Johnny Dingle, DE, mid-round pick

Darius Reynaud, WR, mid-round pick

Owen Schmitt, FB, mid-round pick

Keilen Dykes, DT, late-round pick/priority free agent

Ryan Mundy, FS, late-round pick/priority free agent

Marc Magro, LB, late-round pick/priority free agent

Eric Wicks, SS, late-round pick/priority free agent

Slaton's up-and-down career at West Virginia coupled with the fact that talented running backs are plentiful in this year's draft puts him in a familiar situation.
"That's the story of my life; I have to prove people wrong," Slaton said. "I had no problem doing it. It's not something that's going to make or break a person."

Slaton held four Division I scholarship offers as a high school senior, but only West Virginia believed in him as a running back. He proved why during his freshman season, when he rushed for 1,128 yards and 17 touchdowns. He had a stellar sophomore season and found himself in the Heisman hunt, but wasn't as successful during his junior campaign.

But Slaton, just like Schmitt, knows that nothing comes easy.

"Yeah, I think we had a same type of hunger," Slaton said. "With not having respect from the get-go, we had to earn it."
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