Just in case there was a lone doubter about Joe Defranco, here is an article that was in my local paper. I'm even more impressed than I was. Monmouth University is small! This kid's got a good shot too.
Monmouth star faster, stronger for NFL combine
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
BY MIKE GARAFOLO
It wasn't that Miles Austin didn't believe his coaches. He just wanted to see it in writing.
In late December, the Monmouth wide receiver heard rumblings that he would be invited to the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. But it wasn't until he got a letter from the selection committee in early January that he allowed himself to celebrate.
"I felt like Charlie when he got the golden ticket from Willy Wonka," the Garfield native said last week. "I just looked at it and thought, 'Wow, there it
And it was no mistake. Though he played for a Division 1-AA program that has never landed a player on a regular-season NFL roster, Austin was indeed the letter's intended receiver. He will be one of 330 hopefuls in Indianapolis for the combine that begins today.
For the next seven days, the players will run, jump, lift, interview and weigh in for hundreds of scouts, coaches and general managers. For many, it will be a chance to improve upon their draft status.
For the 21-year-old Austin, the combine is his Rose Bowl. Unlike Texas quarterback Vince Young or USC running back Reggie Bush, Austin hasn't had a chance to prove his 150 catches for 2,867 yards and 33 touchdowns in four years at Monmouth were due to ability and not to inferior competition.
Until this weekend, that is.
"Coming from a small school, the more you can do in your workouts to wow them, the better off you'll be," said Joe DeFranco, the owner of DeFranco's Training in Wyckoff, where Austin has trained for the past two months. "That'll be huge for him.
"They won't know what school he's from, but they'll know what he can do."
By all accounts, Austin should be able to do a lot more than he could the last time he worked out for NFL scouts.
At the time last year, the 6-3 receiver was a bulky 230 pounds. The scouts told him to trim down to 215 and he has done so. In the process, he shaved nearly two-tenths from his 40-yard time (from 4.6 to 4.41) at The Sports Factory in Lincoln Park while substantially increasing his strength at DeFranco's.
Austin currently holds four records on DeFranco's big board. His 42-inch vertical jump is tops for college athletes who weigh more than 220 pounds. While increasing his vertical jump to 43 inches when his weight dipped below 220, he also set records at DeFranco's in the weight class for box squat (515 pounds) and for 225-pound bench-press reps (23).
The credit for such performances, Austin said, goes to DeFranco.
"He sees things in what you're doing, even the tiniest changes you need to make," said Austin. "His training facility, his method of doing things, has taken me to a point I never expected."
DeFranco has been training six other draft hopefuls, most of whom are represented by Manhattan-based ETL Associates. Austin signed with Atlanta agent Hadley Engelhard but still chose to train with DeFranco because of a recommendation from Monmouth offensive coordinator Mark Fabish, who attended high school with DeFranco.
It was yet another decision he made out of loyalty for the program that had convinced the high school track star to stick with football, and remain determined to fully develop his talents.
"My freshman year, I couldn't catch a cold, but they still kept throwing me the ball," he said. "The next spring, we'd run a play, I'd drop it and they'd run it again. We had to run it three times just for me.
"For them to do that and put all their trust in me, I could never leave them dry."
He had the chance to do so and almost heeded the advice of his high school teammate Luis Castillo, who played defensive tackle at Northwestern and was drafted by the Chargers in the first round last year. Castillo told Austin he should be playing at the Division 1-A level.
But Austin remained with the Hawks. It's a decision that has affected his draft status to this point. However, those who know him believe he will overcome the small-school bias beginning this week.
"Once they see that he's as fast or faster, can jump as high or higher than some of these players, it won't be a factor for him," Fabish said. "And they'll see that his best football is ahead of him.
"This kid is not done (improving). He hasn't peaked yet. He hasn't even plateaued. He's constantly getting better."
And constantly campaigning for Monmouth. For Austin, hearing his name called in April is about more than furthering himself. It's also about putting the Hawks on the NFL map.
"Hopefully, I can get on Monday Night Football," he said. "And when they do the starting lineups, I can yell 'Monmouth' as loud as I can in the four seconds they give me."
If he runs 40 yards in as much time later this week, he might get that chance.