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MEASURING UP: UJ's Vereen draws NFL Draft interest

Former University of Jamestown All-American left tackle Anthony Vereen (middle) takes in Jimmie football practice Wednesday at the Jimmie Turf Field. Vereen has garnered interest from NFL teams prior to this week's NFL Draft. John M. Steiner / The Sun1 / 2
NFL DRAFT: Former Jimmie offensive tackle has shot at extending his career on the football field. 52 / 2

Anthony Vereen is well aware of the lottery-winning-type odds surrounding his name being called this weekend during the NFL Draft in Nashville, Tenn. Arguably the best offensive tackle in the entire National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) last fall, Vereen also happens to be a pretty sharp guy.

"Coming from a small school, (NFL teams) are going to underestimate the talent I have because I haven't been playing against the type of talent as all the Division I guys," said Vereen, the 10th first team All-American to suit up for University of Jamestown football. "It's a big risk for those teams. But I think I measure up well coming out of a small school."

Vereen, a native of Las Vegas, Nev., said he has garnered some interest heading into the draft after participating in both the NFL Regional Combine Invitational held March 9 in Kansas City, Mo., and the NDSU Pro Day on March 28 in Fargo. He's hoping to possibly follow in the footsteps of recent former Jimmie All-Americans J.J. Syvrud and Jarelle Miller.

Both linebackers, Syvrud was drafted in the seventh round by the New York Jets in 1999, while Miller was invited to rookie mini-camp by the Minnesota Vikings in 2016 after participating in the NFL combine and going undrafted. Vereen credits Miller, who'd go on to play indoor football for the Bismarck Bucks after not landing a spot on the Vikings' 53-man roster, for helping the lineman realize his potential.

"He believed in my talent more than I did at first," Vereen said of his former teammate. "Seeing Jarelle get invited to Pro Day and mini-camp, that inspired me."

Vereen has hit the weight room since the Jimmies' season ended Nov. 10, adding seven pounds of lean muscle to currently tip the scales at 297 pounds. Standing at 6-foot-2, the UJ business management and music performance major said pro teams would like to see him reach 300 pounds, and he'd more than likely be moved to either center or guard if the NFL were to come calling.

Vereen has been snapping balls to former teammates off to the side at recent 6 a.m. Jimmie spring practices, gearing up for possible interior line work. The 2018 UJ homecoming king, scheduled to graduate in the fall, said he fielded a call from a pro scout earlier in the week.

"It was kinda a little bit surreal. I just had to make sure I could play it cool and answer any questions he had," Vereen said. "I've worked so hard to get to this point. I was extremely happy."

If Vereen goes undrafted this weekend, there's a possibility a team could opt to sign him to an undrafted free-agent contract or invite him to rookie camp. As he explained, there's more to being a professional athlete than measurables.

"(Scouts) didn't really focus on numbers how I thought they would," Vereen said of his combine experience. "Like, there was no bench press. We did more position-specific drills than we did at the Pro Day.

"It's definitely how much of the weight room translates to the field, how you've been coached and if you have a level head. There's a lot of the mental game that goes into it."

Vereen said he plans to watch the draft on television, like millions of other Americans this Thursday through Saturday, specifically paying attention to whether or not the New York Giants finally shore up long-range plans at the quarterback position. Vereen has been a fan of the G-Men and veteran quarterback Eli Manning for most of his young life, and wouldn't mind a certain area quarterback landing in the Big Apple.

"It'll be exciting to see where (former NDSU quarterback) Easton Stick goes, and who the Giants pick up," Vereen said. "Easton came up and introduced himself to me at the Pro Day. He said, 'Hey, you're that kid from Jamestown.' I just about lost it."

Jimmie spring game Saturday

The University of Jamestown football team will play its annual spring game this Saturday, April 27, under new head coach Brian Mistro. The intersquad scrimmage will begin at 1 p.m. at Jimmie Turf Field.

Michael Savaloja

Hometown: Churchs Ferry, N.D.; College: North Dakota

A recipient of the NDHSCA Award of Merit, Savaloja has been reporting sports for The Sun since 2008.

Follow on Twitter: @MichaelSavaloja

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