NFL combine next stop for linebacker

Lotulelei prepares for trip to Indianapolis

slynch@mercedsun-star.comJanuary 30, 2013 

John Lotulelei was intending to relax for a couple weeks and figure out his next move.

That's when his invitation to the NFL combine arrived.

The former Merced College linebacker knew he'd given himself a chance at garnering an invite after recording a team-best 120 tackles and averaging 9.2 tackles per game in his senior year at UNLV.

Lotulelei sweetened his resume by being named to the Mountain West Conference first team.

Still, actually receiving the invite came as a shock.

"I knew I was going to receive a letter saying whether they had room for me or not, but when it came last Friday I was pretty excited," Lotulelei said. "Once I found out, I knew I had to step up my workouts a lot.

"I need to focus on pretty much everything, but right now I'm just trying to get stronger and improve my 40 time."

The NFL Scouting Combine is essentially a job fair for the top draft-eligible college athletes in the nation.

The seven-day event allows all 32 NFL teams to assess a player's medical condition as well as how they respond to physical and mental tests. Players also get the opportunity to interview with executives from each organization.

The number of players invited every year varies, but the event can hold a maximum of 335 players.

This year's combine will be held Feb. 20-26 in Indianapolis.

Lotulelei said linebackers will participate on the 22nd.

"I'm the first to go from UNLV since 2007, I believe, so I haven't been able to talk to anybody that's ever been there," Lotulelei said. "The people I have talked to have told me they think I'll do well. I know I just have to get after it."

(UNLV players Jason Beauchamp, Joe Hawley and Ryan Wolfe attended the 2010 combine).

Blue Devils head coach Bob Casey isn't surprised to see Lotulelei get this opportunity. Casey said he'd always been self motivated.

"Not everybody gets invited to the combine and gets this opportunity, so it's exciting to see someone you've coached get this chance," Casey said. "I don't think anybody can predict how a guy is going to develop, but I knew right away my first year as head coach that John was going to be a player for us.

"He's a tireless worker and obviously he's continued to get better. He's done a great job of keeping in contact with us, so it's been a lot of fun to follow his season."

With the combine now being aired on NFL Network, Casey is hoping to catch Lotulelei in action.

Lotulelei is hoping some of his nervous energy abates in the three weeks between now and then.

"I'm nervous and excited at the same time," Lotulelei said. "This is something I've dreamed about since I was a kid.

"The dream may have been a little grander, but I'm on the path. And that's something to be proud of."

Sean Lynch can be reached at (209) 385-2476 or slynch@mercedsunstar.com.

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