Brown RB knows Combine isn't only road to NFLPosted: Sunday March 03, 2002 1:47 PM
Mike Malan will have a workout for NFL scouts March 12 at Brown University. This is the first in a series as CNNSI.com follows his quest for a chance to play in the NFL.
By B. Duane Cross, CNNSI.com
Like a lot of NFL hopefuls, Mike Malan only wants a chance. But his road to the proverbial riches that accompany a professional athlete's lifestyle will be the scenic route.
Malan is not among the more than 300 college prospects at the league's annual Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. He is at Brown University in Providence, R.I., working out and continuing his studies toward a degree in Public and Private Sector Organization, "a fancy name for a business major," he admits. "I don't think you'll find that exact major at any other school; I think Brown just made up the name."
A native of St. Louis, Malan attended Mary Institute and St. Louis Day School, a Class 3A private school that was not on the top of many college's must-see itineraries. However, the school did win the Missouri state championship Malan's junior season, and was state runner-up his senior year. For his efforts, Malan was a USA TODAY honorable mention All-American as a defensive back his senior season.
Still, major college football powerhouses showed no interest in Malan, who also ran track in high school. "I did receive some letters from major schools for track," says Malan, who was the Missouri state champion in the triple jump as a senior.
"But the only football interest came from some [Division] I-AA schools, Brown and Holy Cross. It was definitely disappointing," he says, "because I felt I could play at a big-time school. Being from a private school, I just didn't draw a lot of attention."
Four years later, that's water under the proverbial bridge. "I'm happy I ended up at an Ivy League school and in the situation I'm in right now," Malan says. "I talked to a lot of people [before enrolling at Brown], and I was influenced to go to the best school possible. It's something to fall back on" if his football dream doesn't pan out, he says.
Not getting the chance to show his wares in Indy isn't the first time Malan has been forced to bide his time. A running back and safety in high school, he was a freshman linebacker with the Bears, riding the pine and not liking the view from the sideline.
"During the fall, I asked coach [Phil] Estes to move me to offense," Malan recalls. "He said to stay put [at linebacker] through the season, then we'd see during spring practice. Coach Estes was receptive [to the idea], he could tell I was frustrated because everyone knew things weren't working out for me at linebacker. I had the physical skills, but I didn't have the intangibles."
In hindsight, Estes says his instinct to try Malan, 5-foot-11, 240 pounds, as a linebacker was a bit off the mark. "Mike is an all around physical specimen. I made a mistake trying him at linebacker," says Estes. "After a while, he came in and wanted to play running back, and I told him I'd give him a shot at fullback. … He carried once and it was history after that."
Says Malan: "I moved to fullback in the spring, and three practices later to tailback. Three practices later, I was starting." The rest is the stuff of Ivy League legend: 17 of 29 games with 100-plus yards rushing; 3,266 career rushing yards; 42 total touchdowns.
"Mike can run over, through or around," says Estes. "He needs to work on his blocking -- Mike's strong as an ox -- but he needs to show that on the field. The scouts will be looking for a blocking fullback.
"Our system didn't give Mike a chance to showcase his skills; we're a pass-oriented offense. We ran a lot of screen passes to him."
However, Estes has no doubt about Malan's immediate future. "Odds are, he'll get into an NFL training camp; I can't believe that won't happen. Once in camp, he can make the team."
For his part, Malan is looking forward to the challenge. "Realistically, I don't see myself as a tailback in the NFL. I'm looking forward to moving to fullback. I have good speed -- it's not easy to find good speed at my size -- and I can catch the ball. I also have a lot of intensity, but I'm not a rah-rah guy. I just have a lot of motivation.
"It's frustrating [not being invited to the Combine]," he says, "but I figure I'll just have a great workout with the scouts [March 12] and it won't really matter" that he wasn't in Indianapolis.