Video stars rarely are NFL stars

Baltimore Sun

They didn't play football at big schools or feel the warmth of the national spotlight. But for some NFL prospects, instant recognition - or maybe just YouTube glory - was a mere hop, flip and a jump away.

A hop: San Jose State defensive end Jarron Gilbert, a third-round pick of the Bears last year, pulled off a stunning feat in the weeks leading up to the 2009 scouting combine. With a friend videotaping him, he stood at the shallow end of the pool, crouched in the water and exploded out of the water, leaping onto the deck without using his hands. View count: 2,431,215.

A flip: Jason Pierre-Paul, a South Florida defensive end expected to go in the first round in April, showed the world his astounding athleticism by executing 13 consecutive back handsprings - no small feat for a 260-pound man. Those acrobatics had folks buzzing at this year's combine. View count: 451,388.

A jump: Wyoming safety John Wendling, a sixth-round pick of the Bills in 2007, left his point-and-click following agog by leaping over a 66-inch hurdle with a short run-up. It looks freakish on video. View count: 467,428.

Those are just three of the thousands of players in all types of sports who have turned to the Internet to promote themselves, frequently for NFL jobs.

"Basically, we're creating a whole new generation of Don Kings," said Brian Hitterman of, who receives more messages than he can count from people pointing him to their personal videos.

Do they make a difference with NFL scouts? Not really, other than to reinforce how freakishly athletic some of these players are.

"One thing it does is it kind of puts them on the map a little bit," an NFL scout said. "It puts a little intrigue into the kid and draws attention to him. Then maybe you go back and spend a little bit more time on his game tape."

Kevin Obren doesn't have much game tape to show. He was the backup kicker at Eastern Michigan and now works as a senior chemical technician at a nuclear power plant. Still, he's clinging to his NFL dreams, and he recently produced a tape that appears to show him kicking three consecutive 65-yard field goals (albeit on a windy day).

"I contacted some teams last year trying to figure out how to get a tryout," Obren said. "The Seahawks e-mailed me back and said, 'You don't need an agent, you just need to make a video and send it to the player personnel departments.' "

His lone response from videos sent to each team came last week from a representative of the Jets, who suggested he attend a pro kicking camp in Las Vegas this month. Obren plans to make the trip. Hey, a guy can dream.

And to hear Chargers general manager A.J. Smith tell it, that's what most of these guys are doing: dreaming.

Smith said he has received dozens of similar amateur tapes over the years, but they never have led to a signing.

"Somebody would show up for a private workout," Smith said, "and he'd end up being a little bit shaky, where we're all looking at each other just wondering, 'What have we gotten ourselves into?' "

One tape in particular stands out in Smith's mind. It was a man who appeared to be around 40, asking for a private workout. He was sitting on a picnic table and surrounded by at least 100 trophies, big and small.

"He went on to emphasize, 'Now, what I'm telling you is the truth, and I am a great athlete. These are the trophies I've won since I was 8 or 9,' " Smith said. "It was kind of scary. … You could ask me 20 years from now, and I'm probably going to tell you about the guy on the picnic table."

Maybe the guy should have tried to jump over that table.

Sam Farmer covers the NFL for the Los Angeles Times.

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