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Super Regional Combine: Ex-Wisconsin TE has NFL dreams


TEMPE, Ariz. -- Tight end Brock DeCicco played for eight head coaches at three schools while in college, finishing up not in front of 83,000 screaming fans at Wisconsin but 2,000 at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

DeCicco, a consensus national top-10 tight end in the 2009 recruiting class, started his college career in Pittsburgh before transferring to Wisconsin and then IUP. His football journey up until this point was anything but common, so there is no reason to change now.

"It's just nice getting so many opportunities to compete," said DeCicco, one of dozens invited to take part in the NFL's Super Regional Combine, an invite-only "all-star" gathering of the best players from the league's five previous regional combines.

The regional combines were created as an outlet to draft-eligible players who were not invited to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. The open regional workouts were held, starting in early February, in Miami, Houston, Denver, Baltimore and Chicago. Saturday's event was the culmination, held at the Arizona Cardinals' training facility.

DeCicco took part in the Chicago regional and again showed scouts his stuff at the Duquesne pro day. Saturday was his third chance to show off his skills as he makes a bid to get into the NFL. It wasn't uncommon for the players. For NAIA record-breaking quarterback Austin Dodge of Southern Oregon, the Super Regional Combine was his second opportunity in front of NFL teams, but he was already thinking of his April 1 pro day.

"Sometimes the road is not as easy as it is for others, but it gives you a chip on your shoulder," said Dodge, who set NAIA career records in passing yards and touchdown passes despite starting his career eighth on the depth chart. "Wanting to reach the highest level, you've got to do what you've got to do to make it."

Among the NFL personnel watching the players work out Saturday: Eagles head coach Chip Kelly, Packers General Manager Ted Thompson, Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie, Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman and Rams assistant head coach Dave McGinnis. Cardinals cornerback and special teams Pro Bowler Justin Bethel also showed up to watch some of the work.

Most players at the regional combines have to hope to be signed as undrafted rookies -- only two from the regional combines were drafted in 2014 -- but several players from last year dotted active rosters and practice squads.

"A lot of these guys we already know, a lot of these guys we already have grades on," Cardinals director of college scouting Dru Grigson said. "But it's an opportunity to see them physically, to see how they test, and to put them in with the rest of the group of maybe the (regular) combine guys and see how they compare. To see if they have NFL height, weight, speed. To see if they have an NFL body type -- is this guy going to fit into a camp?"

DeCicco believes he can fit. His brother, Dom, plays linebacker for the Vikings and has served as a sounding board for Brock when he has NFL questions. Brock believes that playing for eight head coaches was a positive as he drives to play for a ninth in the NFL.

"I've seen so many different styles of coaching. I'm actually happy with it," DeCicco said. "It was difficult having a new offense every single year, but I think I am a better player because of it."

None of the players on hand Saturday is under the illusion he can work his way to first-round status in late April. But they've already earned one NFL invitation, and believe they can earn another.

"Everybody has their story," Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly said. "My story is going to be different than Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston and those guys. That's what makes it better for myself -- you continue to grow that way."

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