Jonassen sees draft day as his final test


In a chart of area prospects for the National Football League draft in yesterday's editions, Mitch Suplee's hometown was incorrectly listed as Edgewood. Suplee is from Edgewater.

The Sun regrets the error.

By the end of the 1988 college football season, Eric Jonassen thought he had it all. He had a national championship ring, was a starting offensive tackle for Penn State as a sophomore, and a career in the National Football League seemed almost certain.

A year later, it all seemed to disappear. Jonassen couldn't maintain his grades and flunked out of Penn State. He wanted to hide, but where do you stow away when you're 6 feet 6 and weigh 308 pounds?

"Even to this day, I'm still answering questions about what happened at Penn State," said Jonassen, a Mount St. Joseph graduate and now a senior at Bloomsburg (Pa.) University. "If I had remained at Penn State, would I have been a better football player? I don't know. But I do know that I'm a better person now, and that's the most important to me."

The NFL still seems to regard Jonassen, a two-time All-America, as a pretty good football player. Representatives from at least seven teams have made Bloomsburg a pit stop during the last year. Jonassen, along with Georgia Tech offensive tackle Mike Mooney (Mount Airy) and Maryland defensive tackle Larry Webster (Elkton) are the area's top three candidates to be takenin the NFL's annual draft that begins Sunday.

Webster, who had 76 tackles for the Terps last season, is projected to go as high as the second round. Jonassen and Mooney are expected to go in the middle to late rounds.

Jonassen, a two-year starter at Bloomsburg, doesn't care. He'll be happy just to get a shot at the NFL. Playing professional football was always a dream of Jonassen's and his father, Ray, since he was a sophomore in high school. Ray Jonassen died of cancer last May. Eric was originally scheduled to enter the draft last April.

"My father was my best friend," Jonassen said. "When I was at Penn State it was living out part of his dream. He always thought someday I would make it. If I had done well in school, he would have been around to see me possibly get drafted. It bugs me, but I can still live out the dream for both of us."

It always seemed as if Jonassen was destined for the NFL. He was 6-5, 270 in high school, and was so dominating that teams would shift two or three men to his side.

How good was Jonassen? Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno personally recruited him and even made a visit to Ray Jonassen's workplace to recruit Eric.

"I pretty much had it all," said Jonassen, who runs a 5.2 in the 40 and bench pressed 225 pounds 16 times at the scouting combine in Indianapolis. "But I would rather hang out with my friends instead of going to class. That's how I got in trouble. And once you get in trouble that way with Paterno, you stay in his dog house. That's not to say I have a problem with Coach Paterno. It was my own fault. I dug my own grave."

Two of Jonassen's friends contacted Bloomsburg coach Pete Adrian about him. For a year, Jonassenattended Anne Arundel Community College, taking 30 credit hours. He then enrolled at Bloomsburg, and the rest is history. But playing at Bloomsburg instead of Penn State may have cost Jonassen position and money in the draft.

"I'm sure it will because Penn State has that reputation," Jonassen said. "But I love football. I love walking of the field beat up and smelly. At Bloomsburg, we didn't have a strength coach and our weight room was half the size of Penn State's. But if you wanted it bad enough, you worked out on your own. I'm glad to be in this situation again."

"I've been coaching 23 years and have had five offensive linemen in the pros," said Adrian. "Eric is better than all of them. A lot of luck and timing is also involved in getting into the NFL."

There is no question about Webster's ability. He ran a 4.92 in the 40 for the Cleveland Browns Wednesday. He bench pressed 225 pounds 23 times, and has a vertical leap of 31 1/2 inches. He has virtually no body fat.

Seventeen teams have put Webster through workouts. The Giants have been to the Maryland campus four times since the football season ended, and Browns coach Bill Belichick came down to work out Webster last week.

Webster won't be sweating on draft day. As a matter of fact, the day before he'll be heading to Kings Dominion.

"I just don't want to get my hopes up too high," Webster said. "All I know is that when it finally happens, I'll kiss my mom and jump up and down."

Jonassen said: "You hear so many things about what's going to happen in the draft you don't know what to believe. I'm just

anxious to get this thing started."


NFL draft order

1. Indianapolis

2. Indianapolis*

3. Los Angeles Rams

4. Cincinnati

5. Green Bay

6. Washington**

7. Miami***

8. New England

9. Cleveland

10. Seattle

11. Pittsburgh

12. Miami

13. Dallas-x

14. New York Giants

15. New York Jets

16. L.A. Raiders

17. Atlanta-y

18. San Francisco

19. Atlanta

20. Kansas City

21. New Orleans

22. Chicago

23. San Diego-z

24. Dallas

25. Denver

26. Detroit

27. Buffalo

28. Washington

* - from Tampa Bay

** - from San Diego

*** - from Phoenix

x - from Minnesota

y - from Green Bay

through Phil.

z - from Houston

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