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Scouting Combine Research Series: Guards (Part 1)

Who dreamed of being an NHL goalie? Who was born in London and chased his dream in the United States? Who didn't think he'd even play in 2016? Those answers and more as we get to know the top guards.

Here are the 18 guards who have been invited to the Scouting Combine. Players are listed in alphabetical order. Heights and weights come from CBSSports.com/NFLDraftScout.com. All players are seniors.

Isaac Asiata, Utah (6-3, 325): Asiata won the Morris Trophy as the Pac-12’s top offensive lineman as a senior, as voted on by his peers, even though he was only second-team all-conference. "It’s one thing to get voted by the coaches, it’s one thing to get voted by the press, other people like that. But to be voted on by the guys you went against, to earn their respect, that’s huge for me. To me that means more than an all-conference deal." Asiata started 42 games in his four seasons, with 25 at left guard as a junior and senior, seven at right guard and six at left guard as a sophomore, and four at right tackle as a freshman.

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Asiata has three brothers and two sisters, and is cousins with Vikings running back Matt Asiata. “I’m blessed and honored to have that name on my jersey to represent and continue the Asiata name here at Utah. I’ve got a lot of respect for (Matt) and what he’s doing with the Vikings. He and Shawn (Asiata, a former Utah running back) did a great job of setting the standard pretty high so I’m just trying to live up to it and follow in their footsteps.’’

In his free time, Asiata enjoys snowboarding. “I don’t think you see too many 315-pound guys on the slopes.’’

Ben Braden, Michigan (6-6, 335): Braden was a three-year starter, including earning second-team all-Big Ten as a senior despite being slowed early in the season with a back strain. He played right tackle as a sophomore, guard as a junior and split time between left guard and left tackle as a senior.

Braden dreamed of being the next Dominik Hasek, the Stanley Cup-winning goalie. Instead, he quit playing hockey before his junior year of high school and has had to save the quarterback on the offensive line. “Being able to stay there and catch the puck in the glove and think that everyone’s trying to beat you at something, not letting them do it? That’s the cool part of it. You have to be quick and flexible, and as a kid, I was pretty flexible.”

Ethan Cooper, Indiana, Pa. (6-3, 325): Cooper was a three-time all-conference performer — at right tackle as a senior and at guard as a sophomore and junior. As a senior, he was a first-team All-American and was nominated for the Gene Upshaw Division II Lineman of the Year Award. After his senior season, Cooper was selected for the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl all-star game. "When I got the letter, I told my position coach (Mike Campolo) first," Cooper said. "He's like family to me, and that meant so much. And, when I got home, I called my dad, and he was about to cry."

At the game, his position coach was Pro Football Hall of Famer Jackie Slater. Slater’s an offensive line legend, but Cooper had never head of him. Until he turned to Google. "I did a little research. He played in the NFL for 20-plus years, and, just, every time he speaks I'm taking everything in."

Dion Dawkins, Temple (6-4, 317): Dawkins started two games at tackle as a true freshman in 2013 before suffering a broken foot. He wound up starting at left tackle in each of the next three seasons, earning first-team all-conference as a senior and second-team honors as a junior. His mentality? “I must win. I have to be great at everything, and if I’m not, what do I have to do to change in order to be great at it?”

Dawkins was headed to Cincinnati to play on the defensive line before new Temple coach Matt Rhule made a recruiting visit. Rhule left the Dawkins family house without offering a scholarship. "I left and started walking down the street to my car. t was literally like a movie. I went, 'Why not?' So I turned around and told him if he wanted to come to Temple, to be there on Monday. That was the first day of (spring semester). And this was Friday. Something in my gut said take this guy. We just took a chance."

Dawkins was arrested in March 2015 for his alleged role in a fight but the assault charges against him and a teammate were dropped. “Some days, I would sit there and tear up. Like wow, just that fast, it could all be gone. I was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. And it all really hits you."

Jessamen Dunker, Tennessee State (6-4, 306): Dunker was a four-year starter at TSU, capped by earning first-team FCS All-American honors as a senior. Dunker played all over the line — left tackle as a freshman, left guard and left tackle as a sophomore, left guard as a junior and back to left tackle as a senior.

Dunker started his career at Florida, redshirting in 2012. He got in hot water there following a Jan. 17, 2013, arrest for grand theft of a motor vehicle.  “He felt like he needed a fresh start and I didn’t disagree with him,” UF coach Will Muschamp said.

Dunker didn’t play football until his junior year of high school but was a quick study, earning Parade and Under Armour All-American honors at Boynton Beach (Fla.) High School.

Jermaine Eluemunor, Texas A&M (6-3, 333): Eluemunor is an intriguing late bloomer. Eluemunor was born just north of London. A channel-surfing Eluemunor found an American football game and loved what he was watching. With American football taking hold in England, he joined the London Blitz. At age 14, he moved to New Jersey.

“I was fortunate enough to have the best Mum and Dad you could possibly ask for. They saw how much I wanted to play football and they saw how much I could play football and they gave me that opportunity to come here with my relatives.”

The 5-foot-11, 300-pound Eluemunor played only one full year of football in high school, attended a junior college and then landed at Texas A&M. “I think of my accent as more London/Jersey/Texas, but when I hear you guys speak it kinda reminds me! It makes me realise how American I sound." Eluemunor redshirted in 2014, was a backup in 2015 — his biggest plash being a victory in the Hot Chicken Eating Contest before the Music City Bowl — and broke into the starting lineup at right tackle as a senior.

Dan Feeney, Indiana (6-4, 304): Feeney was a four-year award-winning guard, punctuated by first-team All-American honors as a junior and senior. According to the schools’ coaches, he allowed two sacks in four seasons. He started at right guard in 2012, 2014 and 2015 — a foot injury sidelined him in 2013 — before splitting time at right guard and right tackle as a senior. Feeney is just the fourth two-time All-American in program history. Feeney, who graduated in May, would have been an early pick in last year’s draft but elected to come back for his senior season.

“He has a pretty high standard for performance, for work ethic," then-Hoosiers coach Kevin Wilson said. "He's very consistent — he brings it every day, whether it be the weight room or practice. He's one of the hardest practice players we've ever been around. He's not flashy, but he's really, really, really good.”

Feeney is a real meat-and-poteatoes lineman. Or, make that steak and potatoes. Feeney, who was athletic enough to play volleyball in high school, has enjoyed a level of success that he never envisioned. “I really wasn’t thinking about it, honestly, in high school, playing Division I ball. Just got a couple of offers from people, was like, 'Wow, this is actually a possibility.'”

Sean Harlow, Oregon State (6-4, 310): Harlow started for most of his four seasons — the final nine at right tackle as a freshman, five starts at right tackle and seven at left tackle as a sophomore, seven starts at left tackle before a season-ending broken ankle as a junior and at left tackle as a senior. Before the 2016 season, Harlow said it was “pretty official” that he’d take a medical redshirt and come back for 2017. "A lot of people would have to go down for them to put me back in there right now,” he said a few days before the season-opening game. By Oct. 1, he was back in the lineup, starting nine games at left tackle and earning second-team all-Pac-12 accolades.

Harlow’s father, Pat, was an offensive lineman at USC and a first-round pick by the Patriots in 1991. He started 94 games in eight seasons. “For hours, they honed fundamentals: finishing blocks, standing at the proper angles,” wrote The Oregonian’s Connor Letourneau. “And the one-on-one study sessions extended beyond the field. During game weeks, the father-son duo reviewed video at their home. Pat pinpointed the game's minute details and presented hypothetical scenarios. What would you do in this situation? What's the worst thing that could happen to you on this particular play?”

Danny Isidora, Miami, Fla. (6-3, 311): After redshirting in 2012 and missing almost all of 2013 with a foot injury sustained the day before the start of fall camp, Isidora started the final 39 games of his career at right guard. He was a two-time all-ACC selection, including a second-team choice as a senior.

Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.


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