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Former players under pro scope

February 21, 2003

Every year, hundreds of former college players push their bodies to the point of exhaustion, in hopes of obtaining their dreams.

Such is the life of more than 300 prospects at the NFL's combine in Indianapolis this week. And three former Spartans are pursuing their dreams this month.

Offensive tackle Ulish Booker, strong safety Thomas Wright and wide receiver Charles Rogers represent MSU at this year's combine.

"Everything's going all right so far," Booker said Thursday night. "I'm glad to be here. I'm not nervous or anything."

At the combine, NFL prospects get a chance to show off their skills in various events, such as the 40-yard-dash, bench press and vertical jump. Representatives from every NFL team are present and each makes its wish list for April's draft.

Rogers, MSU's all-time leader in touchdown receptions (27), is expected by some college football analysts to be selected by the Detroit Lions as the No. 2 pick in the NFL Draft.

Rogers was unavailable for comment.

The four-day event, which started Wednesday, finishes up Saturday. Today, quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends will participate in drills, and tomorrow linebackers and defensive ends will take to the field.

Booker also plans to participate in exercises today.

He said all he has done so far is talked to a couple of teams, but he declined to comment on which ones. He added his combine experience is one he won't forget.

"A lot of people don't get to do this in their lifetime," he said, adding he also has his degree from MSU. "(It's) the opportunity to be among the elite. You know if the NFL considered me a prospect, I mean, they really believe. It says something about me and the university's coaches."

The combine is also a great opportunity for coaches to get acquainted with players before the draft.

New Lions coach Steve Mariucci said teams come into the weeklong combine with a general idea of their needs. But it's still a chance for meticulous evaluation.

"The first handful of picks can be fairly predictable, but after that things change," Mariucci said. "You've got to evaluate the entire group of corners or the entire group of receivers or whatever it is. So you might know what position you need but not necessarily who that guy's going to be."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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