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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Former ‘Cats wrap up NFL mini-camps

    Former UA offensive guard Joe Longacre splits a pair of BYU defenders in a 31-21 Las Vegas Bowl win in December at Sam Boyd Stadium. Longacre and four other Wildcats took part in NFL mini-camps during the weekend.
    Former UA offensive guard Joe Longacre splits a pair of BYU defenders in a 31-21 Las Vegas Bowl win in December at Sam Boyd Stadium. Longacre and four other Wildcats took part in NFL mini-camps during the weekend.

    If life as a college student seems overwhelming, try life as an NFL player.

    Five ex-Wildcats – offensive linemen Eben Britton and Joe Longacre, wide out Mike Thomas, defensive back Nate Ness and linebacker Ronnie Palmer – got their first taste of what it’s like to play professional football, as they took part in their respective team’s mini-camps during the weekend.

    “”I didn’t know what to expect or what not to expect. …It’s full-time though,”” Thomas said. “”We would go from like 6:30 in the morning and one time I got home at like 10:40 (p.m.)””

    Britton and Thomas, who were both drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars, said the weekend provided a great learning opportunity, not only on the playing field but in the film room as well.

    “”It was an awesome experience to get out there and play with those guys at that level. I think I did really well. It was a real positive camp for me,”” Britton said. “”I think the biggest thing, really, is adjusting to the mental aspect. There’s just so many hours spent in film study and in the playbook. I guess you could say it’s a much more cerebral game than in college.””

    That was the consensus for the other players as well. Longacre, who was fighting for a roster spot on the Buffalo Bills’ squad, said his coaches threw everything at him except the kitchen sink.

    “”The hardest part for me was that they try to overload you with information, playbook-wise, and I took it as a challenge,”” he said. “”I would stay up a little later than I should have studying. Then I’d wake up early to study …in the morning. When we’d go into the meeting, I’d really impress them with what I can retain and just show them my knowledge of the game.

    “”I was constantly always studying my playbook, but besides that it was just football. You just go out there and you compete, and I was just really lucky,”” Longacre added. “”I did really well and I kind of just went as hard as I could and it worked out for me.””

    Longacre’s efforts apparently paid off. He said he took a physical at the end of the mini-camp and is expecting a call from Bills coaches sometime in the next 10 days to let him know what the next step is in the process.

    “”Joe was kind of a guy who might have gotten overlooked, but he said all he wanted was a chance,”” said UA offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh. “”He got a chance and it seems like, up to this point, he’s made the most of it.””

    Ness spent his weekend with the Cleveland Browns organization trying to prove he could play at the game’s highest level.

    “”I’ll play wherever,”” he said. “”I’ll play (on the defensive) line if I have to.””

    Ness said he started out the Browns’ camp playing at corner back and the coaches then tested his abilities as safety. But no matter what situation he was faced with, Ness said he performed well, thanks to the strength coaches at Arizona.

    “”Coach Corey Edmond works us out really good. He does a great job of getting everybody prepared,”” Ness said. “”Him and coach Brian Odom, they do a fantastic job of just getting everybody ready for that transition from college to the next level.””

    But no matter how different the game is at the NFL level, each player said keeping a good perspective is key to succeeding at the next level. Nobody should get too low if they struggle at first, but they can’t get too caught up in being an NFL player either.

    “”I’ve never really been the one to be all gloomy-eyed and to be star-struck because we’re all people. Even the president of the United States, he’s still a person,”” Thomas said. “”You’ve still got bills, you’ve still got mortgages, so I think that’s key to just go out there and try to attain information. Just go out there and do your job.””

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