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Combine measures top local football talent

Running back John Haggart from Sayville high school

Running back John Haggart from Sayville high school runs through the 3-Cone Drill during the Long Island 2012 high school football combine. (May 6, 2012) Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

John Haggart's T-shirt said it all. "Iron Man," it read, and it had nothing to do with the recent opening of the blockbuster movie, "The Avengers."

Rather, the Sayville junior running back is trying to show that a football superhero can transform from high school star to elite college recruit. Haggart was one of about 150 participants in Sunday's Blue Chip Prospects/Suffolk County Football Coaches Association combine at Sachem North.

"I definitely like the exposure and the competition," said Haggart, who was one of a handful of players who was a top-five finisher in multiple events. He finished fifth in the 5-10-5, an agility drill, and second in the standing jump with a leap of 9-11. Athletes also competed in the 40-yard run, 185-pound bench press, three-cone drill and vertical jump.

When his distance was announced in the standing jump, Haggart leaped and punched the air, showing that even in a relatively tranquil setting -- in which many athletes from Nassau and Suffolk and a handful from off the Island cheered each other on -- Haggart's competitive fire emerged.

That's been the case all spring for the 6-1, 210-pound Haggart, who rushed for 1,285 yards for Sayville's undefeated Long Island Class III championship team last fall and has drawn interest from a number of Division I colleges, including Syracuse, Connecticut, Stony Brook and Delaware. He competes in the pentathlon for the Golden Flashes' track team and last week made a huge splash nationally at the four-event Nike Football Sparq Combine on Randall's Island, finishing first among 920 participants. He earned a trip to a three-day Nike event in July called "The Open," which will feature a multi-event combine plus football drills in pads, with some NFL players expected to attend. Haggart currently ranks 36th in the nation in the Nike Sparq ratings.

Sunday's event wasn't as high profile, but it did attract some of the best underclass football prospects on Long Island, including Bay Shore linebacker Ousmane Camara, who said he already has been offered a scholarship to Purdue. "It's very flattering," said the 6-3 bruiser, who currently weighs 260 pounds but expects to play at about 250 in the fall. "I love these combines because they let me know where I stand on Long Island. This is the first time for me doing a lot of these drills. But I'm planning to go to more camps and combines to get the word out nationally."

It's already out, as Camara said many major colleges have shown interest. "UConn and Purdue want me at linebacker," he said. "Rutgers, Syracuse, Maryland, Boston College, Temple, they're talking about defensive end. It doesn't matter to me as long as I play."

Bay Shore coach Jim Giattino was at Sachem North to watch Camara, Josh Valentin (another returning Marauders linebacker) and his son, Jim Jr., a starting defensive back at Sayville.

"Ousmane has a nose for the ball. Traps and counters -- he's all over them," Giattino said. "He's very strong; he can take on a block and make the tackle. He reads crossing patterns well. He's an impact player if you're going to try to throw over his 6-3 frame."

There were no crossing patterns Sunday, but there were plenty of young men in motion.

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