MURRAY LaVaughn Jackson had a successful season helping the Lancers to a second-place finish in the 5A state title game, including scoring the game's first touchdown on a 97-yard kickoff return.
But it's hard for the 17-year-old to know just how he compares with his peers around the country and what his expectations should be when it comes to colleges.
That's why Jackson along with about 200 other high school football players showed up at Murray Park Friday afternoon for the Nike Combine, the premier high school athletic testing event. Student Sports Inc., a California-based digital media and event production company that focuses on high school sports, produces the combine and camps, which are free to any athlete.
Students sign up and receive a free workout shirt and then participate in a supervised warm-up. After that, athletes are tested in the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, 20-yard shuttle run and the power ball throw. The power ball throw was new this year, and many of those athletes said they preferred the traditional bench press to throwing a weighted ball.
"It was kind of weird," said sophomore Likio Pope of Provo High. "If you practiced it, and got the form down, you could do well at it. I was just expecting the bench press."
Still, even as one of the younger participants, Pope enjoyed the experience.
"It was cool," he said. "I guess I like just comparing yourself to the best."
Jackson, who will be a senior, and attended a camp for juniors at BYU Friday morning, said he decided to attend just to see where he compared to some of his peers.
"I just wanted to try to come out and do my best," he said. "I wanted to see where I'm at and from there, try to get better."
The official results aren't posted on the Student Sports Web site yet, but on the unofficial leaderboard, Jackson was among the top three overall. Still, he said he was a little disappointed in his performance.
"I felt like I could have done better," he said.
One nice thing about the Nike Combines is that because there are 16 of them, if a player feels he had an off day, he can travel to another combine and improve his individual event scores and overall rating. That is exactly what some players from Norco High School (California) did.
Jared Koster, who will be a senior outside linebacker, and two of his teammates participated in the Nike Combine in Long Beach in March. He was the leader in overall score on the unofficial leaderboard. Both of his teammates also did will at the combine.
"They did okay," said Bill Kohout, whose son Steven traveled to Utah with Koster and teammate D.J. Wood. "They just wanted to improve."
Koster, who is being recruited by UNLV, UC Davis and Montana State, said he prefers the power ball throw to the bench press in assessing football strength.
"It takes into consideration him explosion and not just guys who can lift a lot," he said.
While at Friday's event, the players were invited to Saturday's camp and said they planned to stay overnight in order to participate.
Bill Kohout said the camps are helpful to the players because most of the athletes who show up are college level players whom they'll be competing against for scholarship opportunities.
"Everybody at these camps, I'm assuming, is trying to do their best," Kohout said. "This competition is who they'll face. That's what it's all about."
Friday's event at Murray Park, which includes a seminar on recruiting and training camp at BYU Saturday, is the last of the Nike Combines this spring. There were 16 combines this year.According to an article Thursday in the Washington Post, ESPN acquired Student Sports, Inc. and will make it part of ESPN RISE, which will distribute prep content on all ESPN outlets.
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