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Little Guys Get Noticed In Draft

April 17, 1996 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) _ Kutztown University in Pennsylvania has provided the NFL with the likes of Andre Reed, Bruce Harper and Doug Dennison.

Even so, if John Mobley, a slightly undersized (230-pound) linebacker is taken in the first round of the draft Saturday, it will be despite Kutztown, not because of it.

For even in this era of scouting combines, when talent is scrutinized down to the toenail, it’s hard for players who didn’t attend the biggest of the major colleges to go high in the draft.

Last year, three of the first nine picks were from Penn State.

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And the projected Top 10 this year could come from Southern California, Nebraska, Illinois (twice), UCLA, Michigan, Ohio State, Baylor, Texas and Auburn. There definitely will be three first-rounders from Ohio State _ running back Eddie George, the Heisman Trophy winner; wide receiver Terry Glenn; and tight end Ricky Dudley.

Kutztown, North Carolina A&T or Texas A&M-Kingsville, which as Texas A&I produced players like Gene Upshaw and Darrell Green, get their shots at the end of the round, with Mobley and two offensive linemen, Jermane Mayberry (A&T) and Jamain Stephens (Kingsville).

``It’s not that they aren’t good athletes, it’s that they may need some seasoning in major competition,″ said George Young of the New York Giants, whose made six of his last nine first-round picks from the Big Ten and two others from Notre Dame and Georgia.

``You usually give priority to someone who’s proven himself in major competition.″

On the other hand, the defensive rookie of the year last season was Hugh Douglas of the Jets, the 15th overall pick from Central State in Ohio. That’s the same school that produced Erik Williams of Dallas, perhaps the best offensive lineman in the game.

And the main challenger to Williams as the top lineman in the league might be his teammate, Larry Allen, a second-round pick two years ago from Sonoma (Calif.) State.

Cincinnati’s first Super Bowl team was quarterbacked by Ken Anderson (Augustana). Phil Simms (Morehead State) was Young’s first draft pick with the Giants and quarterbacked them to a Super Bowl.

Buffalo got to four straight Super Bowls with a raft of players from small schools, including Reed; Don Beebe (Chadron State); Pete Metzelaars (Wabash), Keith McKellar (Jacksonville State); and Jeff Wright (Central Missouri State). Last year, the Bills unveiled Darrick Holmes of Portland State, a seventh-round choice.

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Upshaw and Art Shell (Maryland-Eastern Shore) anchored the Raiders’ great offensive line during the ’70s and Deacon Jones of South Carolina State would be the NFL’s career sack leader if sacks had been an official stat when he played.

In other words, there’s a long and honorable NFL history of players from small schools. And No College has turned out defensive linemen from ``Big Daddy″ Lipscomb through Otis Sistrunk to Ray Seals and Eric Swann.

The current-day master of small colleges is acknowledged to be John Butler, the Buffalo general manager who was the team’s scouting director when many of the Bills’ small college stars were drafted.

``If they can play, they can play no matter where they’re from,″ Butler said.

So always keep an eye on Buffalo for sleepers like Ethan Brooks, a 6-foot-5, 280-pound defensive linemen who some teams think could be converted to offense.

He played at Williams College in Massachusetts, which despite its domination of the Little Three, has turned out only three NFL players in the last 50 years. The best-known player from that academically oriented group is Jean Fugett of Amherst, a tight end in the ’70s for the Cowboys and Redskins and now a millionaire whose name has come up as a possible team owner.

So is Butler interested in Brooks?

``I’ve heard some good things about him,″ he said. ``We’re going to take a look.″