Going deep with ultimate sleeper

John Halman's story is like something from a hokey movie, but this prospect's amazing tale is true. From playing flag football to averaging 36 yards per catch (more or less) to being noticed by a Packers scout, the 26-year-old receiver might be drafted on Sunday.

The biggest names in college football will be drafted on Saturday.

And not one of them will have a story quite like this one.

Let me introduce you to John Halman. Maybe he'll get drafted. Maybe not. Maybe they'll make a movie about him someday. One of those, "No way is that a true story" sort of movies.

But this is a true story.

It's a story about a guy who was playing flag football at a junior college a few years ago.

It's a story about a guy with jaw-dropping stats — stats that seemingly don't exist anywhere.

It's a story about a guy who played for Concordia College in Selma, Ala., a school so small that its athletics Web site borders on useless and the football coach also coaches the men's basketball team. There is no conference affiliation, and while Concordia allegedly is affiliated with the NAIA, there is no sign of the school on the NAIA's Web site.

So, where do you start? How about at the beginning.

Halman began playing football during his junior year of high school. When he graduated in 2001, he was about 6-foot and 170 pounds. Not surprisingly, he wasn't on any recruitor's list.

Halman enrolled at a junior college, when he hit a growth spurt. After a couple years of junior college, he got a job while continuing to play flag football.

In 2006, he learned that the Canadian Football League's Ottawa Renegades were holding a tryout. So, Halman trekked north of the border, only to find out the team wasn't interested because he didn't have any college game tape.

Luckily for him, a defensive coach for Concordia was at the tryout.

"He saw me and said, ‘Why don't you come to Concordia?" Halman told Packer Report last week.

So, Halman enrolled at Concordia and played receiver and kicker for the Hornets. In 2008, Halman turned into scouts' hush-hush secret player.

"This past year was kind of my breakout year," the 6-foot-2, 215-pounder said.

You could say that. Now, as Mark Twain famously said, there are "lies, damned lies and statistics." According to Concordia coach Shepherd Skanes, Halman caught 40 passes for 1,470 yards and 11 touchdowns in 11 games. That equates to 36.3 yards per catch, which ain't bad.

"We did go deep a little bit," Halman said with a laugh.

Then again, Skanes said Halman had 233 receiving yards and three touchdowns against Texas Southern. In reality, Halman caught two passes in that game, for touchdowns of 74 and 49 yards. There's the 197 yards that Skanes said Halman had against NAIA power Bethel; in reality it was four catches for 134 yards and two touchdowns. Against Tennessee-Martin, Skanes said Halman had 160 yards. In reality, it was four catches for 109 yards, though Skanes' recollection that Halman had an 83-yard touchdown reception on the first play of the game was accurate.

By Halman's recollection, he caught "43 or 44" passes for about 900 yards. That's more than 20 yards a catch, which isn't quite 36 yards per catch but it's enough to make scouts take notice. Texas Southern, Tennessee-Martin and Savannah State are Football Championship Subdivision schools, so not all of Halman's statistics were compiled against the likes of Webber International and Edward Waters.

"Absolutely," Halman said when questioned about the competition. "We played against three Division I-AA schools, and I had 100-yard games in every one of those games."

With Halman making one big catch after another, word got out among scouts. One of the first on the scene was the Packers' Brian Gutekunst.

"He came over during the season and was talking to me," Halman said. "He's been talking with my agent, as well. He was one of the first scouts that came down. Then everyone started coming through."

Competing at Troy's pro day in early March, Halman ran his 40-yard dash in 4.41 seconds. And while the words "go deep" were a staple of the Hornets' offense, Halman said scouts were impressed by his route-running skills at the workout.

Among the teams showing the most interest are Miami, Jacksonville, Philadelphia, Washington and the New York Jets, he said.

"The Washington scout said I'm going to be happy with the draft," Halman said. "Just hearing from scouts and their response, it's a possibility."

Amazing. From flag football to small-time college football to an early entrant in the NFL Draft at the ripe old age of 26.

"Exactly," Halman said when asked if he ever could have imagined what is unfolding. "I was going to come here and go to school and finally finish up my degree. But this opportunity has come, and I would be stupid not to take it. It's been awesome. I couldn't have imagined this, especially out of high school, that it would have ended up like this."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and 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. Bill also is giving Facebook and Twitter a try. Find him on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook.


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