This weekend in Chicago, hundreds of amateur football players will attempt to catch the eye of NFL teams at a regional combine.
One of those players happens to be from Alpena.
Ferris State's Tyler Uekman, a 2008 graduate of Alpena High School will attend the combine this weekend and try to impress teams with his talents as a long snapper.
Ferris State University long snapper Tyler Uekman will take part in an regional NFL combine this weekend in Chicago. Uekman is a 2008 graduate of Alpena High School.
"I'm very ecstatic. To have this many hours of football and this many hours of dedication and to have this opportunity, I'm ecstatic," Uekman said.
Long snappers are most often specialty centers who snap the ball on punts, field goals and extra points. Nearly every team in the NFL has one and they usually are signed by teams as undrafted free agents.
Fortunately for Uekman and other hopefuls, because long snapper isn't exactly the hottest commodity for teams, their chances of impressing scouts are greater than at wide receiver or quarterback.
"The shots are a lot better than at wide receiver because there's less people trying out," Uekman said. "You have a better chance because there might be 50 people trying out instead of 500."
Uekman was primarily a defensive player in youth football, but when he got to JV football at Alpena, the team was in need of a long snapper and Uekman volunteered, spending time learning the position with his father Mark. As a varsity player, Uekman continued as a long snapper, but was also an important part of the Wildcats' defense. As a senior he recorded 53 tackles, two interceptions and two sacks.
After graduation he attended Mesabi Range Community and Technical College for a year and converted from cornerback to linebacker before transferring to Ferris State. After not seeing game action for two seasons, Uekman appeared in nine games this season for the Bulldogs.
To prepare for the combine, Uekman has been working out five days a week, running, lifting and snapping. Uekman worked with a coach to help improve his technique but a lot of the drills he does are a mix of what he's learned from coaches and what he's learned from his own experiences. Depending on the day, Uekman might snap as few as 25 balls or as many as 100 or 200 to get into a rhythm and to work on muscle memory. At the combine, he'll run through several drills such as the 40-yard dash, the 20-shuttle and also will snap for them
"It's all about timing and getting into the same rhythm and understanding how it works for yourself," Uekman said.
Uekman hasn't had any previous contact with NFL coaches, but he's certainly hoping to catch the eye of a few on Sunday. If he doesn't get any invites, Uekman has several fallback options. He's already got two welding degrees and is finishing up an automotive degree at Ferris. There's also the possibility of playing arena football or in the Canadian Football League.
"I'm going in as a dry sponge trying to soak everything up and trying my best," Uekman said. "I'm just trying to get someone to remember my name and impress the right person at the right time."
James Andersen can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.