NFL Draft hopes loom for Neuqua Valley, Geneva products
Two college football players, a quarterback from Naperville, a receiver from Geneva.
Now in a holding pattern as both eye the NFL Draft on April 23-25, and its aftermath.
At quarterback, Neuqua Valley graduate Broc Rutter led North Central College to its first Division III football title with a decisive 41-14 victory over perennial power Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Winning the Gagliardi Trophy as the nation's best Division III football player, the 6-foot-1, 205-pound senior set the all-time Division III passing yardage record among other lofty marks.
Ryan Skibinski, a 5-11, 186-pounder out of Geneva, ranks among Dayton's top two receivers in career receptions and reception yardage.
The unanimous all-Pioneer Football League senior began his Dayton days as the Flyers' top newcomer and ended it with the program award for four-year contributions.
Hopeful to turn the heads of NFL scouts, Skibinski competed at Miami's pro day March 2 in Ohio.
Separately, on March 4 Rutter completed 44 of 47 passes at Northern Illinois' pro day.
Through Todd Sutton -- Skibinski's uncle and Rutter's Neuqua Valley basketball coach -- they joined forces before Northwestern's pro day March 10.
"He's a Naperville kid, I'm a Geneva kid, so I knew of him," Skibinski said. "I knew he played at North Central, he's a really good player. He's a local quarterback trying to do the same thing I am."
The two gained chemistry working on pass routes at North Central College.
"We had a connection," Rutter said.
"It's just so great to be able to have a local kid going through the same exact experience with me from a small school," he said.
"It's basically the same situation we're going through, and to be able to work out with him, throw with him, it's been a great opportunity for both of us because we can bounce ideas off of each other and just be able to go through this process together."
In front of scouts from all 32 NFL teams at Northwestern, the two connected on 50 of 58 passes, "basically every kind of pass you could think of," Rutter said.
In addition to physical tests for speed and agility each also was interviewed by a number of scouts.
"They want to get to know the person, because obviously they can watch all the film in the world," Rutter said.
"To be able to go there, your opportunity is to catch the eye of just one team, because that's all you need, is one opportunity and one chance to be able to go out and show what you are and what you think you're made of, and that you really belong there in the NFL. It's not easy, we all know that, but just to have the opportunity would be a dream come true," he said.
It certainly won't be easy. NFLDraftScout.com rated Rutter the No. 32 quarterback in the 2020 Draft class, and Skibinski the No. 111 receiver.
It didn't help that an April 10 Chicago Bears "Local Day" -- a showcase for area prospects -- was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rutter and Skibinski both were invited. Though they may not have been able to team up 58 times, "we'd have gotten in a few reps, at least," Skibinski said.
They play the waiting game while continuing to work out, fielding calls from interested teams. Rutter's agent, Jayme Moten of Priority Sports in Chicago, was going to film Rutter passing to Skibinski for a video Moten could send out.
Rutter said on the Daily Herald's "Tailgating with Dave and Kevin" podcast he'd be interested in playing in Canada if he was unable to latch on with an NFL franchise.
"The draft is next, or post-draft, you hopefully can get signed," Skibinski said. "And then try to go to rookie minicamp and then get into a training camp."
COVID-19 has added a layer of complexity, but competitors like these just deal with it.
"I think you've just got to take advantage of it. Obviously everybody's kind of in the same boat right now, we're all trying to find places to work out at," Skibinski said.
"It's really just a challenge, and it kind of shows who has good work ethic and is doing things on their own and is disciplined."