It's one thing to be a big dog in the Bay Rivers District, and Marcus Spearman of Grafton and Parker Osterloh of Warhill are surely that. In a district where Division I football scholarships are a rarity, both are poised to ink one this time next year.
But they are juniors and the question of whether they are really in the same league with other prospects in the Class of 2013 naturally occupies space inside of their helmets. So they made a trip to the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, on Jan. 6 to get some answers at the U.S. Army National Combine.
The invitation only event featured about 500 of the top prospects in the nation. In addition to getting advice from accomplished military officers and football professionals, Spearman and Osterloh were tested — as is common at all combines — for speed and strength.
But they also got to measure themselves 1-on-1 in drills against high caliber recruits. It was in those brief moments they got the answers, and the confidence, they were looking for.
"I was looking to gauge myself against the top prospects," said Spearman, a 6-foot, 195-pound defensive back. "I think I did pretty well."
Osterloh said, "I wanted to compete against players of that talent and skill. I think I performed well."
Osterloh, a 6-foot-7, 275-pound offensive lineman posted personal bests of 4.7 seconds in the shuttle and 25 inches in the vertical. He said that some of the other O-lineman demonstrated greater strength in the tests, which he said will motivate him to hit the weight room harder.
But when it came to the 1-on-1 pass protection segment, Osterloh said he handled it fine.
"Neither of the linemen I went up against got to the quarterback," he said. "They were speed guys trying to get to the edge, but I stopped them.
"I realize I need to get stronger, but I don't want to sacrifice any quickness or agility in doing so."
Spearman said that he established a personal best of 33 inches in the vertical. But Spearman, a first team Group AA All-State underclassmen selection, said he was happiest with his performance in pass coverage drills.
"There were some fast guys, but I kept up with them," said Spearman, known more for quickness and athleticism than blinding speed. "When you're exposed to that kind of speed, it's going to make it easier covering receivers in the Bay Rivers District."
Osterloh and Spearman said the speakers they heard — NFL Hall of Fame offensive lineman Anthony Munoz and Kansas City safety Eric Berry among them — provided good advice about taking advantage of opportunities, helping others reach their goals and, of course, focusing in the classroom.
Opportunities should be plentiful for both. Spearman boasts a 4.4 grade point average that has Ivy League schools and other academically prestigious institutions such as Duke and William and Mary showing interest in him.
Osterloh already has a full scholarship offer from James Madison. He labels the interest he's receiving from Virginia, Virginia Tech and Old Dominion as "serious."
Both watched seniors play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and hope to be among the select group to play in next year's game. Whether they are invited back to San Antonio again or not, they left with the answers they were looking for.
"This combine was above any of the camps I've been to because of how big it was," he said. "I was able to see where I stand."
Osterloh said, "The combine was a great experience and it's kind of neat to be able to think of yourself as one of the country's top juniors."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun