Several Trojans will keep a

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 14, 2000

close eye on NFL Draft

From Special Reports

In its tradition-rich history, Troy State University has had 19 players selected in the National Football League’s annual draft. Only once, 1992 (Leonard Wheeler and Reggie Dwight) have multiple players gone in a single year. That should all change this weekend.

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Three Trojans are mentioned prominently as possibilities of going in the first three to four rounds. Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Richard Shaughnessy has a great deal of contact with the scouts as they come through to evaluate talent.

"We try to prepare each student-athlete for the tests the scouts put each man through," said Shaughnessy who is finishing his third year at TSU. "You are talking about a very hard-working group of young men trying to accomplish a dream. That makes my job a little easier and more fulfilling."

Shaughnessy’s work has had a big impact on this year’s crop of seniors. His program has enhanced the overall athletic ability of each individual student-athlete.

Among the trio of "sure things," is defensive tackle Al Lucas (Macon, Ga.). At 6-0, 290 lbs., Lucas was the 1999 Buck Buchanan Award winner as the I-AA Defensive Player of the Year. He made 126 tackles on the year with 20 for loss and four sacks. He also scored seven touchdowns the past two seasons as the Trojans’ "power" back in short yardage situations.

Lucas is listed as No. 5 on ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper’s list of defensive tackles just ahead of Tennessee’s Darwin Walker. He is expected to go anywhere from the third to fourth rounds.

Offensive lineman Michael "Mookie" Moore (Fayette, Ala.) was a Trojan for one season, transferring from Alabama, but what an impact he made. The All-American solidified the line moving from guard to the line’s most challenging position of left tackle and was among the best in the nation.

Moore is one of the strongest linemen in the draft as evidenced by his performance at the NFL Scouting Combine lifting 225 lbs. 34 times. He later topped that mark with two more reps at one of the school’s "Pro Days" where scouts come for final evaluations. He has been mentioned as high as the second round by some draft prognosticators.

Wide receiver Mareno Philyaw (Atlanta, Ga.) has two things scouts look for at his position, size and speed. The 6-2, 205-lb., ran the 40 in 4.4 this spring, although he has been timed at 4.3 in the past.

He did a little of everything for the Trojans playing receiver, moving to quarterback and then back to receiver his final two years. He scored in a variety of ways from catching the deep ball, to making things happen off a screen pass to taking it the route on a reverse. He is expected to be off the board by the fourth or fifth round.

Any one of those three could be the earliest selection in school history eclipsing Wheeler who was the 84th selection overall (third round) in 1992.

Those three are not the only ones eyeing their television sets this weekend. There are four others who have generated more than modest attention.

Middle linebacker Anthony Rabb (Prichard, Ala.) and cornerback Eric Sloan (Atlanta, Ga.) are two players with solid credentials coming up short in one area, height. At 5-9 and 5-8, respectively, the duo are considered "short" for their positions.

There is nothing short about their play. Rabb collected over 100 tackles in each of the last three seasons with a team-best 153 in 1999. Sloan had seven interceptions in 1998, but found the pickings slim last season with just one as teams consistently threw away from him. He still broke up 23 pass attempts.

Defensive end Aaron Fields (Notasulga, Ala.) came out of nowhere in 1999 to gain attention. He led the squad with seven sacks. Tight end Lenny Lucas (Macon, Ga.), Al’s older brother, has received his fair share of looks as well.

"You are talking about some special people," said Head Coach Larry Blakeney. "We were blessed with some of them for four year and Mookie for just one, but they all have meant a great deal to this program."

The draft will begin on Saturday and end on Sunday.