Players with NFL bloodlines compete for pro chance at combine

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- The opportunity for another chance led many of the participants in this past weekend's NFL Regional Combine in Indianapolis to the event.

It's what led a couple of players with NFL bloodlines -- cornerback Lorenzo White Jr. and offensive tackle Baker Steinkuhler -- to join more than 500 other prospects taking part in the workouts at the Colts' facility.

White is the son of former Houston Oilers and Cleveland Browns running back Lorenzo White, who played in the NFL from 1988 to 1995 and was a first-round draft pick by the Oilers in 1988. The younger White played at Central Michigan, wrapping up his collegiate career in 2012.

As a senior with the Chippewas, he made 27 tackles and broke up a team-high nine passes. He has had workouts with several NFL teams since leaving college, including the Dolphins prior to last year's draft.

White Jr. was one of 47 cornerbacks getting an opportunity to show scouts what they could do during the weekend combine.

Steinkuhler is the son of ex-Oilers second-round pick Dean Steinkuhler and brother of former Jets defensive tackle Ty Steinkuhler. Dean was the second overall pick of the 1984 draft, playing for Houston from 1984-91.

Baker Steinkuhler followed in his father's footsteps at Nebraska -- he played in 51 games and made 38 starts for the Cornhuskers as a defensive tackle, earning second-team All-Big Ten honors as a senior.

A knee injury during the 2012 season, though, caused several NFL teams to shy away. He was invited to the Texans' post-draft mini-camp last spring as an undrafted free agent.

This time around, Baker Steinkuhler is trying to get noticed by NFL scouts as an offensive tackle. He was one of 11 offensive tackles getting work during the combine. There were 27 total offensive linemen taking part in the sessions.

Contrast the situations of White and Steinkuhler to that of a relative unknown such as former Indiana State cornerback Johnny Towalid, who earned FCS All-America honors for the Sycamores in 2012.

Towalid, however, is battling back from a heart condition that derailed an opportunity to play for the CFL's Saskatchewan Roughriders last year. After being given the green light by his doctors to return to the field, the Indianapolis native has embraced the opportunity to show that he has what it takes to perform at a high level in the NFL.

There were others participating in the camp with similar stories and aspirations. Many viewed it as a test to see how they stacked up in a tryout situation. But only a handful are expected to receive invitations to the Super Regional Combine, which is scheduled for Detroit's Ford Field in two weeks.

Stephen Austin, director of regional combines, came away from the workouts impressed by the sheer number of participants.

"I thought the sessions went real smoothly as usual. We've got a great Indianapolis staff. We never have a problem with our operations here. The staff is just outstanding," Austin said. "As far as talent, I would have liked to have seen a little bit more. But it's not so much quantity, it's quality.

"The players that I liked, and I'm pretty sure my fellow scouts will agree with me, are going to be real quality guys that will go to the Super Regional Combine."

The oldest participant in the weekend combine was a 37-year-old real estate agent from Texas who tried his hand as a fullback.

Austin and the scouts on hand for the workouts promised every player who took the time to go through the workouts that they would get a fair chance to show what they could do. That much was accomplished.

"We come to town, we don't know what's there. We'll know (at the end of the combine)," Austin explained, adding that it doesn't matter where the players come from or if their families have NFL connections -- everybody's getting the same shot.

"Ninety-nine percent of these guys are college football players. And if you look around, all you see are football players. We all know that maybe five percent have the ability to compete at the NFL level. We're looking for that five percent. And a lot of these players, they don't know if they have that," he said.

"They come here (to the combine), they'll find that out and they can find by comparison that, 'Wow, there is a level above where I'm at.'"

Follow Tom James on Twitter @TribStarTJames.

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