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Tuesday, June 18
The Indiana Daily Student

sports football

Pair of Hoosiers earn invites to NFL teams' rookie camps

Football vs. Northwestern

After the NFL Draft finished last Saturday, former IU linebacker Jeff Thomas’ phone rang. It was the San Diego Chargers, talking to Thomas about a possible career in the NFL.

When the team decided to go in a different direction later that day, however, Thomas’ confidence in his professional football future was shaken.

“I kind of just thought it was done from there,” Thomas said. “It just kind of sucked. I thought something good was going to happen, and it didn’t happen on Saturday, so I was really pretty disappointed.”

Two days later, however, Thomas’ agent called him and said he wasn’t done with football yet. The Buffalo Bills invited Thomas, who led IU with 80 tackles and 10.5 tackles for loss, to their rookie camp May 11-13.

The day before Thomas got his positive call, his former teammate, left tackle Andrew McDonald, was getting some good news of his own. The Green Bay Packers, just one full season removed from a Super Bowl championship, were on the phone with an invite to their rookie camp the same weekend as Thomas’.

For McDonald, however, that was only half of the offers he would receive. Later the same day, the Miami Dolphins called McDonald, inviting him to camp with them this weekend.

McDonald admitted he was nervous Saturday night after the draft but wasn’t worried about being a free agent. In fact, it was almost what his agent, Josh Marks, wanted for McDonald.

“I expected to be a free agent,” McDonald said. “I was hoping to get drafted in the later rounds, but my agent was telling me that if you’re not drafted in the first four (rounds), it’s better to be a free agent. That way, you have more choices.”

McDonald left for Miami at 6 a.m. Thursday and will return after practices and team meetings Sunday evening. Days later, he will transition from Miami, a city known for its sun, to Green Bay, a location known for snowy and tumultuous weather during football season.

He said even if the experience in Miami doesn’t go well, it will still help him when he ventures to Green Bay’s camp.

Another factor that helped both McDonald and Thomas catch the eye of NFL scouts was the way they worked out during the offseason.

After IU’s season ended, Thomas worked out both in Utah and extensively at his high school in Millbrae, Calif.

“There’s still a long way to go, and I have to put in more hard work just to even get an invite to the camp,” Thomas said. “Beggars can’t be choosers and tend to get lucky, so I’m happy with it as of now. I feel pretty good about it.”

McDonald added weight while staying in shape at St. Vincent Sports Performance in Indianapolis. He increased his weight from 290 to 310, while having enough strength to bench press 225 pounds 23 times at IU’s pro day.

McDonald has tried to keep a fairly low profile about his opportunity and not make too big a deal about it.

“I pretty much told my family,” McDonald said. “I don’t really want to say, ‘Oh, yeah, I made it. I’m in the league now’ because I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m going to go out there and do the best I can, and I expect to get signed with one of them, but I haven’t made it until I make it.”

As much as he tries to keep a low profile, McDonald said he knows the importance of this weekend and next weekend.

“I feel pressure, obviously,” McDonald said. “My whole life builds up to this moment, as far as football goes.”

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