Jefferson Leaves Mark on Villages Classic

<P>LADY LAKE, Fla. &#151; He didn&#146;t play the glamorous position of quarterback or running back, but he managed to impress nonetheless. At the end of the day, former Penn State fullback and Wilkes-Barre native Paul Jefferson left the field happy with his performance.

Jefferson was one of three fullbacks on the North team’s roster in Saturday afternoon’s The Villages Gridiron Classic. The Gridiron Classic brings together some of college football’s top seniors for a showcase of talent before the 2005 NFL draft. The South won the game, 24-21.

While his touches on the ball were limited, Jefferson made sure to make his mark off the ball for the thousands of fans and dozens of pro scouts in attendance.

“We went series for series and I did what I was supposed to do,” Jefferson said. “I blocked well and I got to touch the ball once, which was a third of the amount of times as I touched it during the season. So I’m happy about that. I was out in the flats and I ran some patterns even though I didn’t have the ball thrown to me, but I’m happy considering there’s so much talent in the game.”

All three of the North squad’s fullbacks were from the Big Ten: Branden Joe from Ohio State, Kevin Dudley from Michigan and Jefferson from Penn State. Despite the triple threat rivalry, the trio developed a friendship throughout the week.

“We’re all competitors,” Jefferson said. “We come in expecting really to compete. Those two guys are very open and we embraced each other. We understood we were all going to play the same amount of snaps. So basically there wasn’t any bad blood, and it was all about coming out here as fullbacks and helping each other out. We just wanted to show the pro scouts that we have three good fullbacks coming out of this game.”

As expected, Jefferson proved himself as the best blocker of the three fullbacks on the roster. In his first series, he flattened Florida strong safety Cory Bailey on a toss play. The next play, Jefferson upended Virginia Tech linebacker Brandon Manning. He finished the day with one carry for one yard.

“The common comment from scouts is that I’m a good blocker and just keep it up as often as I can,” Jefferson said. “They are always looking for a solid lead blocker fullback. We’re a dying breed, but at the same time there’s not many of us out there. This game had three great fullbacks on both sides.”

While the art of solid blocking out of the backfield often goes under appreciated, Jefferson has made a name for himself doing just that. One compliment Jefferson is well aware of is his status as ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper’s No. 1 fullback prospect.

“It’s one of things that you keep in the back of your head, which is always great especially when you consider the type of season we had as a team,” Jefferson said. “To have Mel Kiper say I’m number one is an honor and I’m excited about that. But some people don’t rank me as high. So you keep that in the back of your head too also.”

Earlier in the week, Jefferson was also named to The Villages Daily Sun’s top-25 prospects to watch list in the Gridiron Classic. But despite the media’s praise, Jefferson said he has kept in mind some of the lessons he learned from Coach Joe Paterno during his five years in Happy Valley.

The main lesson? One of humility.

“Like Coach Paterno used to say, you’re never as good as you are when you win and you’re never as bad as you are when you lose. I apply that to the rankings. You’re never as good as you are when you’re ranked number one, and you’re never as bad as you are when they say you’re last. So I’m happy about being ranked that high, but I try not to overreact to that.”

Jefferson also spoke about how being a part of the Penn State football program has prepared him to make the transition from student athlete to professional athlete in the NFL.

“I think I’m as well prepared as anyone in the country, just because of the discipline Joe Paterno instills in his program,” Jefferson said. “There are big-time similarities in college football and pro football, like being on time. When I say being on time, that means be 10 minutes early. All of the little things Penn States makes you do as a student-athlete, making you study, making you pay attention in meetings; all those little things prepared me and made me a more disciplined person. I learned that you need to take care of the little things then the big things will take care of themselves. Just by learning things like that, I’m as prepared as anyone in the country because Penn State is such a great program.”

EXTRA POINTS

Jerome Mathis, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound wide receiver from I-AA Hampton, took the honor as the North’s MVP. LSU quarterback Marcus Randall was named the South’s MVP.

• Attendance: 12,635

• Jefferson was one of two players selected from the North squad to speak and field questions at the Gridiron Classic’s pregame press conference on Friday.

SCOUTING REPORTS

Here are five players in the 2005 Gridiron Classic worth mentioning

1). Jerome Mathis: WR, 6-2, 220, Hampton. Most exciting player to watch; blazing speed, very quick lateral movement, soft hands; before today’s game, Kiper noted Mathis as the top sleeper pick in the nation

2). Rasheed Marshall: QB, 6-1, 190, West Virginia. Probably the best pure athlete on the field; too small to play quarterback, but does throw the ball well on the run

3). Atari Bigby: SS, 5-11, 215, Central Florida. Geat size and speed; always around the ball

4). Greg Pauly: DT, 6-6, 295, Notre Dame: Big lineman but very quick; big sack on the day

5). Dominique Dorsey, RB, 5-7, 165, UNLV: Small running back, but players on both sides of the ball were saying he was the quickest player on the field; very nice moves and very fast, but size will definitely be a liability as far as being a regular back in the NFL

Top 20

The Villages Daily Sun’s Top 25 Prospects to Watch in the Gridiron Classic:

1). Jerome Mathis, WR, Hampton

2). Lionel Gates, RB, Louisville

3). James Kinney, LB, Missouri

4). Jerome Carter, DB, Florida State

5). Jonathan Goddard, DE, Marshall

6). Marques Harris, LB, Southern Utah

7). Ellis Hobbs, DB, Iowa State

8). Jason Anderson, WR, Wake Forest

9). Anthony Alabi, OT, TCU

10). Willie McNeil, OT, UNC

11). Tony Curtis, TE, Portland State

12). Vincent Burns, DE, Kentucky

13). Sam Mayes, OG, Oklahoma State

14). Rasheed Marshall, QB, West Virginia

15). Eric King, DB, Wake Forest

16). Atari Bigby, DB, Central Florida

17). Efrem Hill, WR, Samford

18). Terry Holley, DB, Rice

19). Billy Bajema, TE, Oklahoma State

20). Paul Jefferson, FB, Penn State

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