There is a palpable difference between the run-of-the-mill high school football combine and the Blue Chip Prospects/Suffolk County Coaches Combine, scheduled for Sunday morning at Smithtown West High School.
Not only will participants go through the standard litany of strength and agility tests – the 40-yard dash, 185-pound bench press, broad jump, three-cone drill, shuttle run, and the vertical jump – but they will also participate in 7-on-7 sessions, putting those test numbers into instant context.
“You could be the fastest or the strongest, but if you can’t apply it to what you’re trying to do, it’s no good for anybody,” said combine co-director and Suffolk County Football Coaches Association president Hans Wiederkehr. “We said ‘let's run them through some football-type drills to show ‘here’s the strongest kid and he’s also very good with his footwork in the pass rush,’ or ‘ok, here’s the fastest kid and he can catch,’ or ‘here’s the quarterback, and he can throw.’ It’s two-fold.”
In that sense, it’s more than just a combine.
“You may run a 4.5 (40-yard dash time), but now you’re going to run a 4.5 and catch a football with somebody covering you,” Wiederkehr said.
Football players of all high school grade levels can participate in the combine, giving themselves an opportunity to measure themselves in areas that college recruiters pay attention to. Each participant will receive accurate, professionally done measurements, as well as a video of their performance that they can show to college recruiters when the time comes to think about post-high school playing.
“The kids get the scores mailed to them, so that when a recruiter comes to their high school, the kid can now hand them a legitimate 40-yard time, rep in the bench press, or time in the three-cone drill,” Wiederkehr said. “The time is done from a neutral source – a coach – not anybody else.”
The combine is in its 20th year, something Wiederkehr said he did not expect when he started it.
“20 years ago, when kids weren’t getting looked at, I said ‘what can we do as coaches to provide them with another avenue to get their names out there?’” Wiederkehr said.
And thus, the combine was born. The event has become one of Wiederkehr’s favorite days of the year.
“To me, this is the beginning of the high school football season,” he said. “You’re getting ready for the high school football season, presenting yourself, and how much work you did over the winter.”
Registration for this year’s edition is on-going at bluechipprospects.com. Day-of registration is available, but organizers would prefer registrants sign up before Sunday, Wiederkehr said. Registration is $120 and the event begins at 9 a.m.