NFL Combine Notebook

Todman still hoping to turn heads

Running back Jordan Todman, who starred at Dartmouth High and UConn, is projected as a mid-round pick in the NFL draft. Running back Jordan Todman, who starred at Dartmouth High and UConn, is projected as a mid-round pick in the NFL draft. (Michael Conroy/ Associated Press)
By Shalise Manza Young
Globe Staff / February 28, 2011

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INDIANAPOLIS — It may be tough for Massachusetts high school football players to attract the attention of college football programs, but a good player can be successful anywhere.

Case in point: UConn running back Jordan Todman.

The North Dartmouth, Mass., native was a two-time Globe All-Scholastic, the 2007 Division 1 Player of the Year, and is second in rushing in state history with 5,083 yards. He scored 70 touchdowns.

But when it was time for colleges to come calling, Todman didn’t have a lot of suitors. He opted to join the Huskies, where he played behind current Colts back Donald Brown before moving up the depth chart.

As a sophomore, Todman had 235 carries, but last fall he was a workhorse for UConn, getting the ball 334 times. He totaled 1,695 yards and 14 touchdowns, earning Big East Offensive Player of the Year honors.

Despite having one year of eligibility remaining, Todman announced his intention to enter the draft following UConn’s loss to Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.

“I was the second-leading rusher in the nation. I feel like it’s a pretty good accomplishment,’’ he said. “I carried the ball a lot last year and I wanted to make my decision and pursue my dream, so I chose to enter the NFL draft.’’

One of the knocks on Todman is his size — he measured in at the Scouting Combine at 5 feet 9 inches, 203 pounds. He believes his ability to carry the ball so many times works in his favor, but also said that the likelihood of a similar number of carries in his senior season played a role in his decision to go pro.

During workouts yesterday, Todman posted times of 4.44 and 4.45 seconds in the 40-yard dash — one of the faster times among the crop of running backs at the combine this year. His vertical jump of 38 inches was third-best among running backs.

Todman, who celebrated his 21st birthday last week, is projected as a mid-round pick.

As a senior at Dartmouth High, Todman led the Indians to the Division 1 Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium; as a New England native and with the Patriots in need of running back help, he was asked if he’s thought about playing in Foxborough on a regular basis.

“I’ve been to tons of Gillette Stadium games and I was fortunate to play there. You think about being the hometown hero, going back to play in New England,’’ he said. “But at this point, wherever I get drafted will soon be my favorite team.’’

Todman isn’t the only former Massachusetts high school star at the combine — North Attleborough, Mass.’s Anthony Sherman, who was Todman’s fullback at UConn, is also a participant.

Sherman had an impressive effort in the bench press — lifting 225 pounds 32 times — and displayed a selfless attitude in his media interview. He praised Todman, and in turn Todman acknowledged the dirty work of Sherman and the Huskies’ offensive linemen as playing a role in his success.

Herzlich upbeat While at least one NFL head coach said this week that Mark Herzlich “has a long way to go’’ in showing NFL teams that he is draft-worthy, Herzlich no doubt will bowl over any team with his intangibles.

The Boston College linebacker certainly made an impression among the media throng yesterday, as his morning news conference left the room buzzing and led one reporter to say that Herzlich has a future as a motivational speaker.

Herzlich is cancer-free after learning he had a rare form of bone cancer in May 2009 and sitting out his true senior year. He returned to the field last fall.

The Pennsylvania native was asked if what he’s overcome motivates him during games.

“It’s not a conscious motivation,’’ he said. “I don’t sit there in the fourth quarter and think, ‘I beat cancer, so I can do this.’ It’s just that you get trained throughout your whole life, whether you had to go through something like this or something else in your life where you just train yourself to push through tough times. Throughout the year I went through chemotherapy and radiation, those were tough times. That was as tough as it’s going to get.

“So in the fourth quarter, as tough as it is, what are you doing? Playing football. I was doing something I love. Take every minute and don’t waste it.’’

While Herzlich said he’s 100 percent and that in terms of speed he’s back where he was pre-illness, he also noted he hasn’t yet had the opportunity to get all his strength back.

“I really have progressed,’’ he said. “Everybody saw my progression week to week during the season, but a lot of these people don’t understand — I haven’t had an offseason yet to get my strength back. To get my speed back.

“My first practice [with BC last fall] was three days before the first game. The gains I’ve made have been incredible so far. I envision progressing even more, so next time I step on the field it will be like, ‘Wow, he’s at his best right now.’ ’’

Herzlich and the rest of the linebackers will be on the Lucas Oil Field turf today, and he’ll get another chance to show scouts and coaches how far he’s progressed.

Newton struggles Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, one of the most talked-about prospects of the week, had a rough showing in drills. His drops were slow, and at one point he had six straight incompletions, overthrowing receivers on deep balls and 10-yard outs. His 10-foot-6-inch broad jump and 4.59-second 40-yard dash showed his vaunted athleticism. Newton’s Pro Day at Auburn is March 8, where he’ll get a second chance to show his ability as a drop-back passer . . . Oregon State defensive tackle Stephen Paea set a combine record in the bench press, lifting 225 pounds 49 times. He said he was hoping to hit 50 . . . Random combine fact: Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara is the son of a Nigerian prince and has five sisters: Princess, Promise, Precious, Peace, and Passionate. All six siblings are talented athletes. Prince is one of the top defensive backs in this year’s draft, while Princess played college softball, Precious is a college track athlete, and Promise will play basketball at Arizona State. Peace and Passionate are in 11th and eighth grades, respectively, and both are talented hoops players.

Shalise Manza Young can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.

Correction: Because of a reporter's error, an earlier version of this story listed an incorrect school for Oregon State's Stephen Paea.

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