The first step in the 2010 National Football League draft kicked off with the start of last weekend’s NFL Scouting Combine at Indianapolis.

Much of the time was spent testing and visiting with the nation’s top collegiate football players who are getting ready to take that final giant step to the next level—a professional career in the NFL.
Those hopefuls getting much of the attention of NFL decision-makers such as Colts president Bill Polian and New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese were players who suffered injuries last season and those who had issues with their college teams and were suspended or dismissed from their respective teams.
The NFL executives want to make darn sure these individuals will portray the moral values necessary in keeping a franchise fan-friendly.

Interviews were conducted for combine invitees such as Oregon running back LaGarrette Blount who was suspended most of the season for punching a Boise State player at the end of their game last August or Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant and Southern Cal running back Joe McKnight who were both suspended after being accused of NCAA infractions.

NFL executives will have two months before the April 22-24 draft to answer questions about some of the high-profile quarterbacks in this year’s draft such as Florida’s Tim Tebow, whose delivery of the football is different than most NFL quarterbacks. 

Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen is still recovering from toe surgery and Texas’ Colt McCoy’s throwing arm that was injured in the national championship game is still on the mend. Oklahoma’s 2008 Heisman winner Sam Bradford missed all but three games last season with a shoulder injury.

However, Tebow impressed the scouts Sunday with his speed, strength and endurance and tied a combine record with his vertical leap of 38 1/2 inches. The scouts are a bit more wary of Clausen who some say lacks the necessary leadership skills to be a first round pick and that he is cocky, arrogant and has lacks the maturity to be a starting quarterback in the NFL.

Monday’s combine focused on defense, with All-American linemen Ndamukong Suh of Nebraska and Oklahoma’s Gerald McCoy competing to see which one should be drafted first.

This week’s edition of USA Today Sports Weekly published the Top 64 prospects that projects to go in the draft’s first two rounds and former West Orange-Stark and Texas Longhorn Earl Thomas was listed as No. 19.

Thomas, a first-team Associated Press All-American safety and finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award that honors the nation’s best defensive back, was listed as a 5-10, 195-pound cornerback.
The article said “Thomas chose to enter the draft as a redshirt sophomore after setting a school record with eight interceptions. He led the nation with 24 passes defended last year and collected 143 combined tackles the last two seasons. Thomas has the speed, instincts and attitude to play safety, but scouts have concerns about whether he is big enough to hold up at the next level.”

Thomas was the top Texas Longhorn ranked by with teammate outside linebacker Sergio Kindle ranked No. 22. Jasper native SeanWitherspoon, outside linebacker from Missouri, was selected No. 38, Texas quarterback Colt McCoy was No. 44 and Tebow was rated No. 45.

The scouting service also listed Nos. 65-100 and surprisingly Texas All-American wide receiver Jordan Shipley was No. 69.

Nebraska’s cat-quick defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, at 6-4, 302 pounds, was the No. 1 choice, which is no big surprise, followed by Tennessee free safety Eric Berry, Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, tackle Russell Okung of Oklahoma State and No. 5 Joe Haden, a cornerback for the Florida Gators.

Rounding the top ten selections were Iowa tackle Bryan Bulaga, Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford, Georgia Tech defensive end Derrick Morgan, Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant and Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen. All top ten picks plus Earl Thomas were destined to be No. 1 draft picks according to

The order of the first round will be 1. St. Louis 2. Detroit 3. Tampa Bay 4. Washington 5. Kansas City 6. Seattle 7. Cleveland 8. Oakland 9. Buffalo 10.x Denver (from Chicago) 11.x Jacksonville 12. Miami 13. San Francisco 14. Seattle (from Denver) 15. NY Giants 16. xSan Francisco (from Carolina).
17. xTennessee 18. Pittsburgh 19. xAtlanta 20. xHOUSTON 21. Cincinnati 22. New England 23. Green Bay 24. Philadelphia 25. Baltimore 26. Arizona 27. DALLAS 28. San Diego 29. NY Jets 30. Minnesota 31. Indianapolis 32. New Orleans. x- subject to coin flip.

KWICKIES…Despite hockey being one of our least favorite sports, we couldn’t help getting excited watching the gold medal match between the United States and Canada Sunday afternoon. After trailing the entire game, the Americans tied the game at 2-2 when Zach Parise scored with 24.4 seconds left, sending it into overtime. However, Canada survived perhaps the greatest game in Olympic history on a goal by Sidney Crosby, who may be the Canadians replacement for the great Wayne Gretzky, 7:40 into the overtime period for a 3-2 win and the gold medal.

NBC paid a record $820 million for the rights to televise the Winter Games. It is part of the $2 billion package NBC paid for the 2010 and 2012 Games. The European Broadcasting Union paid $760 million for both games, Japan Consortium $362.5 million and Canada’s CTV $153 million.

The Lamar University men’s basketball team still has an outside chance to secure a position in the upcoming Southland Conference tournament, but the Cards (5-9) must win the remaining two SLC games against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi today (Wed.) and at Nicholls State Saturday in Thibodaux, La. and then hope for a lot of other scenarios to occur. It doesn’t look good for the Redbirds, but they must win both remaining games to remain mathematically eligible for the eighth and final playoff berth.

The Lamar baseball team is in much better shape in the early going with a fine 6-1 record, losing only to North Dakota State Saturday. The Cards return to action Friday night against Dallas Baptist in the third game of the YMBL/Cardinal Classic. The four-day tournament begins Thursday when Dallas Baptist plays McNeese State at 6:30 p.m. Penn State and McNeese play at 1 p.m. Friday in Game 2.

Terrell Owens is expected to become a free agent Friday after the Buffalo Bills announced Saturday they do not plan to offer him a contract. Owens, who will turn 37 in December, caught 55 passes for 829 yards and five touchdowns in his only season in Buffalo.

JUST BETWEEN US…Now that the Winter Olympics are over, NBC welcomed back Jay Leno Monday night to his original 10:35 p.m. slot that he vacated when the network had the brainstorm to put Jay in primetime (9 p.m. CST) with Conan O’Brien in his 10:35 slot. When O’Brien’s ratings tanked and Jay’s also weren’t so hot, NBC paid O’Brien a huge lump sum to leave the time slot so Jay could come back after the Olympics were over. O’Brien’s humor seems more suitable for the Sesame Street crowd, in this Korner’s opinion.