Photo courtesy Ashland University Athletics.

Steelers Watching Shaheen Closely

The Steelers sent their coach and a scout to Massillon High to watch Adam Shaheen's pro day today. The tight end is one of the NFL draft's biggest and best athletes.

The Pittsburgh Steelers once drafted a wrestler out of Pitt-Johnstown, and Carlton Haselrig went on to play in a Pro Bowl during his four-year career as a guard.

The Steelers currently have a close watch on a basketball player out of Pitt-Johnstown, but the difference is that Adam Shaheen transferred to Ashland University and not only set an all-division NCAA receiving record for a tight end, but he's one of the most freakish athletes entering this year's NFL draft.

Shaheen performed Wednesday morning at his pro day in front of Steelers TE Coach James Daniel at Massillon High School.

Shaheen didn't run a 40, jump or bench for Daniel, but he did participate in field drills that were run by coaches of the Oakland Raiders and New Orleans Saints -- according to Zac Jackson of The Athletic -- as Daniel and a scout from the Steelers watched closely.

Shaheen sat on his impressive NFL Combine numbers of 6-6 1/2, 278, 4.79 40, 24 bench reps, 32 1/2 vertical jump, 10-1 broad jump, 7.09 3-cone drill and 4.38 short shuttle. He was the tallest tight end in Indianapolis, the heaviest and tied for the most bench reps at his position.

To put his speed into perspective, no athlete at the Combine at Shaheen's weight or higher ran as fast or faster. 

Only six athletes within 20 pounds of Shaheen's 278 ran faster. 

And only three athletes -- Tarell Basham, Myles Garrett and Solomon Thomas -- weighed within 10 pounds of Shaheen and ran faster, and the fastest of those three was the 272-pound Garrett, at 4.64, and he's favored to become the No. 1 pick of the draft.

To put it bluntly, Shaheen is a freak.

And he can play. 

A two-time Division II All-America, Shaheen caught 127 passes for 1,670 yards (13.1 avg.) and 26 touchdowns in the last two seasons. His 70 receptions in 2015 is an NCAA all-divisions record for a tight end. 

To paraphrase NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein, Shaheen is a receiving tight end in a blocking tight end's body. 

So, yes, Shaheen is a serious athlete who can run and jump and catch and shouldn't be a difficult study when it comes to in-line run-blocking. Whether Shaheen can make the jump to the next level is what Daniel was attempting to ascertain Wednesday morning. He and Shaheen had met previously at the Combine and Shaheen said then that "the meeting went very well." 

Shaheen said Daniel talked primarily about "wanting me to improve, and not just in one aspect of the game," Shaheen said. "I have a long ways to go before I can be the most complete player I can potentially be."

Shaheen played both basketball and football at Big Walnut High School in the north Columbus suburb of Galena, Ohio. But at 6-4 1/2, 195, "Ohio State wasn't knocking on my door to play football," so Shaheen went to Pitt-Johnstown to play basketball. 

As a freshman, he averaged 5.5 points and 3.1 rebounds for the D-2 Mountain Cats, but he attended a football game in the fall "and it just put a bug in me." At the end of the school year he contacted a pair of D-2 football schools, Ohio Dominican and Ashland, "and the rest is history, as they say," Shaheen said with a big smile.

To get from 195 to 278 pounds, Shaheen said he ate "a lot of Chipotle burritos" and credited "just a ton of consistency" for his growth as an athlete.

"I couldn't go in and do one hard week of training and then be lazy the next," he said. "It was a year and a half to two years of constant 'Sorry, guys, I can’t hang out. I gotta go.'"

Ashland went 19-3 the last two seasons and video highlights of Shaheen overpowering his opposition no doubt played a big part in that success. 

His GIFs appeared regularly on Twitter as fans were getting to know him as a draft candidate. But that was all lost on Shaheen.

"I deleted most of my social media," he said. "I'm taking after LeBron with the blackout type deal. But, yeah, my dad has been sending me all of these articles. I'm like, 'You need to stop that right now. I'm not going to read them until it's done.'"

Has Shaheen heard folks calling him the next Rob Gronkowski?

Shaheen paused.

"Uh," he said before another pause. "I'm not too sure how to respond to people comparing me to Gronkowski, so ..." and his voice tailed off.

But Shaheen's become used to pro coaches like Daniel showing up on the Ashland campus, located about an hour northeast of his hometown. Shaheen will no doubt become the fourth Ashland player to be drafted by the NFL, and likely the highest. Jeris Pendleton was drafted in the seventh round by Jacksonville in 2012, Len Pettigrew was drafted in the ninth round by Philadelphia in 1971, and Bill Overmyer was drafted in the 14th round by Philadelphia in 1972.

Haslerig was the only athlete ever drafted by the NFL out of Pitt-Johnstown. He was a 12th-rounder, and fans still thank the radio banter of legendary broadcaster Myron Cope who repeatedly called for the team to draft Haselrig on the final day of the 1989 draft.

But next month, a Pittsburgh radio personality would have to start much earlier in the draft, probably on Day 2, if he's going to petition the Steelers for Shaheen.


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