The UPMC Sport Performance complex in Pittsburgh, the fourth stop on the 2009 Nike Football Combine tour, was host to more than 700 prospects in unseasonably warm weather Saturday .
While the weather outside was warmer than normal, the pristine indoor facility at the UPMC center was the site of some hot performances, most notably by some big-name defensive backs.
One of the top names heading into the event was Penn Hills cornerback Cullen Christian, who is already approaching 10 scholarship offers and did nothing to diminish his rising star Saturday. He posted outstanding marks of 39.3 inches in the vertical jump and 4.25 seconds in the shuttle on the way to a 102.57 SPARQ rating.
Right there with Christian in the race for the top SPARQ rating were two outstanding defensive backs from perennial Western Pennsylvania contender Monroeville Gateway, Orne Bey and Brendon Felder. Bey, a 5-foot-8, 166-pounder, turned in the combine's top shuttle time at 3.95 while also clocking a 4.59 40 and posting a 35.3-inch vertical jump, eventually finishing with a 102.00 SPARQ rating. The 5-11½ Felder, who just moved to Gateway from St. John's Prep in Massachusetts, finished just behind him at 100.23. LB Delbert Tyler and DB Dayonne Nunley were two other Gateway standouts that had big days Saturday.
Another big day was turned in by rising junior Doran Grant out of Akron (Ohio) St. Vincent-St. Mary. Despite only having played two years in high school so far, Grant was already attending his fourth Nike Combine. Grant, a 5-9½, 169-pound corner, totaled 36 tackles and three interceptions last fall. He posted the event's top vertical jump at 40 inches, while also clocking very solid times of 4.62 in the 40 and 4.07 in the shuttle to finish with a 109.17 SPARQ rating.
Grant's big day was not enough to outshine two other Ohioans; DB Aaron Maslowski of Medina Highland and LB Ryan McCollum of Warren JFK dueled for the day's top SPARQ rating. In the end, Maslowski just edged ahead, 112.44 to 111.09. The 5-9½, 176-pounder took the top honors on the strength of a terrific all-around day that included a 4.51 time in the 40, 4.00 in the shuttle, a 35.1-inch vertical jump and a 35-foot power ball throw. McCollum, a very good-looking LB, ran a 4.85 40, 3.96 in the shuttle and heaved the power ball 38 feet.
Other top prospects in attendance Saturday included Penn State bound QB P.J. Jones out of Sto-Rox, who checked in at a solid 6-2½, 218 pounds and threw the power ball 32 feet, 6 inches; Pittsburgh Penn Hills athlete Brandon Ifill, who clocked a 4.65 40 at 6-0, 175 pounds; and Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward cornerback Seth Cunningham, who ran 4.55 in the 40 and 4.11 in the shuttle.
See below for the "Workout Warriors" from the Pittsburgh Nike Combine:
A quick explanation of the events:
• The SPARQ rating is a scoring system designed to measure football-specific athleticism by combining results in the four combine tests: 40-yard dash, 20-yard shuttle, vertical jump and power ball throw.
• The 40-yard dash at Nike combines are timed using SPARQ digital timing. Not all players choose to test, and some have their marks scratched in individual events.
• The shuttle run at the Nike combine is timed with stopwatches, and players must touch the lines with their hand. Not all players choose to test, and some have their marks scratched in individual events.
• The vertical jump at the Nike combine is measured on jump pads in inches. Not all players choose to test, and some have their marks scratched in individual events.
• The kneeling power ball throw is a test of upper-body and core strength and is measured in feet to the nearest half-foot. Not all players choose to test, and some have their marks scratched in individual events.
ESPN RISE and Scouts, Inc. will have much more from the Pittsburgh Nike Combine throughout the week, including top testing results from each event, more standout performances, the recruiting buzz from the combine, an all-combine team and complete results by the end of the week.