Nike Combine Attracts Bluechippers Despite Weather

Some of the top football prospects in the country were in Auburn on Sunday for a chance to show their talents.

Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn campus welcomed almost 500 of the top up-and-coming football high school players from 17 states on Sunday when the Nike Football Training Camp was held on the practice fields behind the Athletic Complex.

Put on by Student Sports magazine, the event was the most attended ever in the event's history that includes 135 combines, but thunderstorms cut the event short before the players were able to do all the field events. Camp coaches brought the entire group of athletes into Auburn's indoor facility for instruction in technique during the heavy thunderstorm that made it unsafe to be in the open.

The threat of bad weather didn't keep the big names away from Auburn as top players such as Demonte Bolden from Tyner High in Chattanooga, Tenn., Curtis Dawson from Hoover, Blake Field from North Florida Christian High in Tallahassee, Rory Johnson from Vicksburg, Miss., Tyrone King from Minor High, Markus Manson from Hillcrest (Tuscaloosa), Eric McClendon from Vidalia, Ga., Xavier Mitchell from Long Beach, Miss., Tom Santie from MBA in Nashville, and B.J. Stabler from Clarke County. Those were just some of the top players that came to show what they could do.

Tony Bell

One of the in-state players who has already made a name for himself is athlete Tony Bell from Thompson High, who has quickly become one of the hottest football prospects when you look ahead to Class of 2004. A 6-2 ½, 207-pound linebacker/running back who has the speed (4.48 40-yard dash) to make plays from sideline to sideline, Bell tells Inside The Auburn Tigers that he has offers from some of the top schools in the country already. While he has plenty of options at the moment, the speedy Bell says that he's far from ready to make a decision.

"I have offers from LSU, Colorado, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, and Auburn," he notes. "I'm also hearing from Notre Dame, Michigan, Georgia Tech, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and Clemson.

"I have some colleges that I like, but I'm not narrowing anything down right now," he adds. "I'm still keeping an open mind because I don't want to put anybody ahead of anybody. I have four that are ahead right now, but that's about it."

A three-year starter after moving to Alabaster from Memphis, where he saw playing time as a freshman at Brighton High, he played both linebacker and running back for the Warriors last season. Showing his wares, he had a stellar junior season and caught the eyes of recruiters everywhere. On defense he had 95 tackles and two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown. Splitting carries with fellow recruit Eric Bogans, he rushed for nine more touchdowns on offense and returned two kickoffs for touchdowns.

Being recruited as a safety by most everyone but Ole Miss and Vanderbilt, who want him as a linebacker, Bell says that there is no question in his mind that he wants to play defense in college. Whether he grows into a linebacker remains to be seen, but there is no doubt he has the attitude to excel on the next level.

"I like to hit," he says. "I pretty much like to hit, but I like to play the pass, too. That's why I like to play safety because I can play the pass and the run. They have me at linebacker because I usually eased up playing safety and came up closer to the line. That's why they decided to put me at linebacker."

A tremendous all-around athlete, Bell also has time to play basketball and run track. While he says that he plays basketball in the winter just to stay in shape, the same can't be said for running track. Participating in a number of events, he was a one-man team for Thompson this spring. He recorded a career best time of 11.0 in the 100 meter dash and ran a 22.8 in the 200. He also added a long jump of 21 feet, 7 inches and participated in the high jump and 4x100 relay.

This summer Bell plans to attend camps at Auburn, LSU, Tennessee and is still considering going to a camp at Ole Miss. He says that time this summer will be spent on improving his speed to enable him to play safety on the collegiate level. His first chance to impress was to be Sunday at the Nike Combine, but a torrential downpour kept him from being able to do anything other than the basic 40-yard dash and weight lifting drills.

Markus Manson from Hillcrest High will likely be one of the most heavily recruited prospects in the state of Alabama. Scott Kennedy of Theinsiders.com gets a close look at the running back on Sunday.

Inside The Auburn Tigers will have more updates in the coming days from some of the top players in attendance at the combine.


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