CHICAGO -- High school football prospects from five different states blew into the Windy City on Sunday for the Nike combine, all hoping that by the end of the day they will have caught someone's eye. Ironically enough it was a super athlete from the Show Me State who turned heads.
Wesley Leftwich (Columbia, Mo./Hickman), a 6-foot-1, 196-pound wide receiver, stood out from the hundreds of prospects. The University of Missouri commitment showed off his speed by burning up the track with an electronic time of 4.40 in the 40-yard dash and was also among the best in the rest of the SPARQ drills, which test for explosion and power.
"I love these combines," Leftwich said. "People ask what my motivation to come to combines is when I've already made my commitment, and for me it's just something that I enjoy. Anything that can make me better, I'm all for it. I also made a commitment to come to this combine before I committed to Missouri, and I wanted to honor that commitment."
The stock for Leftwich continues to soar, and more and more schools are starting to send hand-written mail and scholarship offers to him, hoping that they can convince Wesley to visit their campus to check things out.
"It's too late," Leftwich said. "I'm committed to Missouri. They offered me before my junior season. Missouri is in the top five in the country in passing yards, so it's also the best fit from that standpoint. Illinois and Stanford came in with offers, but I'm solid in my commitment."
Leftwich said he'll be hit the Nike NFTC at Ohio State on May 1 and plans to attend a camp in Portland this summer for the top SPARQ performers.
Things didn't go as planned in 2009 for running back Calvin Phillips (Kankakee, Ill./Kankakee). The 6-1, 212-pound running back committed before the season to the University of Minnesota but didn't play a single down of football during his junior season because of academic reasons.
Phillips is out to prove his worth and he's off to a great start as he was definitely among the top prospects going through the SPARQ drills.
"I've switched schools and that has made a huge difference," Phillips said. "I was at Momence and now I'm at Kankakee. My mom and I went to Kankakee and they told us that they would make sure that we received the tutoring I need to get my grades up and get qualified."
And that might not be the only school change Phillips makes. Suddenly, Minnesota might not be where he ends up playing college football.
"I like Minnesota but I'm leaning to Illinois right now." Phillips said. "Illinois offered me a scholarship. I like the coaches down there and I feel more comfortable with Illinois right now. I'm getting hand-written mail from UCLA and I plan on hitting Michigan State this Saturday (March 27) for an unofficial visit."
Passing the test
Other prospects who fared well were defensive tackle Mason Fuller (Chicago/Urban Prep), defensive end Josh Lisenby (Chicago/De La Salle), wide receiver Edward Lewis (Florissant, Mo./Hazelwood Central), defensive back Keenan Johnson (Lake Forest, Ill./Academy) and a pair of athletes from Kankakee (Ill.) Bishop McNamara -- Theo Bradley and Maurice Shoemaker.
Chris Pool has covered recruiting in Chicago and the Midwest for 15 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.