Huckeba, Hogs Put Talents on Display

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas defensive end Jeb Huckeba was "shocked" when he wasn't invited to attend last month's NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

Huckeba believed he deserved one after recording 6 1/2 sacks during a productive senior season. He thought he played well in January's East-West Shrine Game and spent five weeks working out with other combine-bound seniors at a training facility in Phoenix. But when his training partners boarded an airplane bound for Indianapolis on Feb. 21, Huckeba wasn't with them.

"It was disappointing," Huckeba said. "Those guys left (Phoenix) the same day I did. They went straight to the combine. I came back to Fayetteville."

Huckeba and other draft-eligible Hogs not invited to the NFL's annual job fair finally get a chance to showcase their talents in front of league personnel in the Walker Indoor Pavilion this morning. Quarterback Matt Jones will garner the most attention during the first of Arkansas' two on-campus pro dates, but Huckeba is hoping to catch the eye of at least one NFL team today.

Huckeba, Jones, running back DeCori Birmingham, defensive tackle Arrion Dixon, receiver Steven Harris, defensive end Elliott Harris, linebacker Marcus Whitmore and offensive lineman Gene Perry will participate in the workout. Jones and Birmingham were the only two Razorbacks invited to last month's combine.

Huckeba isn't sure why he didn't get an invitation, but is looking at the bright side.

"I'm not really concerned or worried about it because the guys I've talked to who are in the league and doing well who didn't go to the combine -- even the guys that did go to the combine -- have told me it doesn't really matter," Huckeba said. "It really all boils down to getting into camp, doing well and making the team."

Huckeba said former Arkansas Pine-Bluff and Kansas City Chiefs safety Greg Wesley wasn't invited to the combine, but was selected in the third round of the 2000 NFL Draft. His Arkansas teammate, left tackle Bo Lacy, turned a combine rejection into a sixth-round selection by the Pittsburgh Steelers in last April's draft.

Huckeba said Lacy was one of 39 drafted players that didn't attend the combine.

"My agent had scouts from almost every team apologize because I wasn't there so it may end up being better for me," Huckeba said. "There's no in-between ground at the combine. You either help yourself or you hurt yourself. I feel like training here and running here will be the best situation for me. I'm trying to look at it as a positive."

It also helps that numerous scouts, coaches and other NFL personnel are scheduled to attend today's workout to further evaluate Jones. The 6-foot-6, 242-pounder turned heads in Indianapolis after running an unofficial 4.39-second, 40-yard dash.

Jones' agent, Dave Butz II, said his client won't run the 40 again after his combine success. But Butz said the multi-talented Jones, who had a private workout with the Jacksonville Jaguars last Friday, will run, catch and throw for anyone interested.

"I think that can only help me," Huckeba said. "There will be more teams that might have an idea who I am, but don't know much about me. Lord willing, when I do good and perform in front of them, I'll catch their eye and they'll show more interest."

Huckeba said his 40 time (which he hopes is around 4.5) and strength test (he'll bench press 225 pounds as much as possible) are important. He also wants to make an impression in agility drills and show off his versatility in position specific drills.

In the end, Huckeba believes his combine rejection will be a blessing in disguise.

"I've had to maintain what I built up (in Phoenix) by myself here, which has been tougher than having somebody coach you and train with 20 other guys," Huckeba said. "But it's made me have more self-discipline and has been an advantage. I've been able to work out where we're actually going to be timing (today) instead of just going to Indianapolis and never seeing it before. I've been getting ready on our indoor three-lane track underneath the weight room.

"That's going to help me out. I'm definitely ready to go. I'm more than ready."

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