NFL Draft Prospect: Another Hoops Convert?

Sometimes good football players aren't found on the football fields of colleges across the nation as many scouts believe. Sometimes they come from an entirely different place -- the basketball court. That's what one agent believes is the case with a former member of the UConn Husky basketball team. The idea is to find the next Antonio Gates. Although he may not be another Gates, this player may have enough football in him to make it in the NFL.

It seems just like yesterday when former Kent St. University star basketball player Antonio Gates burst on to the scene in just his second season and had a breakout year for the San Diego Chargers. The former undrafted free agent is now recognized as one of the top two tight ends in the NFL.

New Haven based agent Joe Linta, like many of his brethren, is looking for the next Gates, or a facsimile there of. Linta signed former Texas A&M Corpis Christi basketball player Corey Lampkin last year and got him signed to a deal with the New York Jets and is looking for another hoops player that could make it to the next level on the football side.

After watching University of Connecticut basketball player Ed Nelson during the recent NCAA tournament, Linta decided to work him out on campus this past Tuesday.

"I went to the workout not expecting much but after watching him workout, I came out knowing he's an NFL prospect at tight end. He's got great quickness, good hands, and tremendous lower body strength," Linta said.

Linta should know. After all, he played and coached at Yale which only enhanced his understanding of the game. Having athletic talent is just part of being an NFL prospect.

"I have never heard a stronger recommendation about a kid's heart and work ethic than that from (men's) head coach Jim Calhoun for Ed Nelson," Linta added.

Nelson made his decision on Thursday to sign with Linta who also represents NFL coaches, players, and other projected high-round prospects for this month's draft such as Kamerion Wimbley and Charles Spencer.

While he hasn't played football since his sophomore year in high school, the 6'6", 265-pound Nelson is set to show NFL teams his talent at his pro day on campus next Friday. Throwing to him will be another Linta client, Yale University QB Jeff Mroz.


Jai Lewis #55 of the George Mason Patriots against Ed Nelson #32 of the Connecticut Huskies during the Regional Finals of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournement in March. (Getty images)

Linta's agency JLSports represents a number of current and former Patriots as well as draft prospects the team has met with. Among his many clients, Linta has an abundance of linemen and tight ends in his care. Current Patriots' linemen Russ Hochstein, and Brandon Gorin, former Patriots lineman Joe Andruzzi (Cleveland), former 2005 draft pick tight end Andy Stokes (Arizona) are the most notable with New England experience. Safety Ray Ventrone is also a Linta client.

Linta does have one former UConn Husky signed with him, defensive lineman Sean Mulcahy (Carolina). Just maybe, he'll have another UConn client in the league soon.

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