LAKE FOREST – Kyle Wismer already considers the $246 fee some of the best money he’s ever spent.
That was the cost for Saturday’s NFL Regional Combine, where NFL hopefuls, from the Big Ten Conference to junior college schools, came to be tested and evaluated by professional scouts.
Wismer ended a highly productive college career at Wisconsin-Whitewater in November by helping the Warhawks to their fourth NCAA Division III national championship in five years. The 6-foot-3, 228-pound Richmond-Burton graduate hopes he is not yet done with competitive football.
“Hopefully a tryout. I hope to get a chance to get in front of coaches and see what I can do,” said Wismer when asked the purpose of attending the combine. “I played at the Division III level, so there’s not the exposure like there is for Division I guys, so I’m here to see what I can do.”
Wismer, who graduated from R-B in 2010, Rob Mago (Cary-Grove, 2009) and Cody O’Neill (Marian Central, 2009) were three local athletes to attend the combine Saturday at the Bears’ Walter Payton Center. The next step for the almost 270 players at the combine would be an invitation to the Super-Regional Combine in Detroit on April 12 and 13.
They all are longshots, but they chase their dreams the way Bears cornerback Isaiah Frey and Detroit cornerback Jonte Green did. Those players attended regional combines, eventually were drafted and stuck on NFL rosters.
Wismer felt a little more comfortable Saturday with three linebacking mates from Whitewater – Cole Klotz, Josh Williams and Antoine Harries – also at the combine. Wismer had been working with Namon Johnson, a trainer in the McHenry County area, on speed and agility drills to prepare for Saturday.
“You just do everything perfect, especially with the position drills,” Wismer said. “Everything has to be perfect. I feel like I did that. It’s up to [the scouts]. If I get a call to the super-regional, that’s a pretty big deal.”
Wismer, who played on three D-III national championship teams, hopes to get a shot in some NFL training camp this summer, likely as an undrafted free agent.
O’Neill, a center, started 2 1/2 seasons at D-I South Dakota and is listed at 6-3, 305. Mago (5-10, 180) graduated from D-III Augustana in 2013 and works as a fitness trainer at HealthQuest in Palatine.
O’Neill just had a Pro Day workout for scouts on Thursday in Vermillion, S.D.
“I just hope to get more exposure,” said O’Neill, who has hired an agent. “Get my name out there a little bit more, an opportunity to better my numbers and get a few more looks. I’ll keep working out and hope to get a few calls and have somebody sign me.”
O’Neill currently is doing his student teaching and will graduate in May.
Mago played with the Indoor Football League’s Chicago Slaughter last season while training athletes at HealthQuest. Mago said he benefited from working with his boss, trainer Tim Scanlan, in preparation for the combine.
“He had been nice enough to facilitate the training for my journey,” said Mago, whose blond hair is in long dreadlocks. “I’ve been training for 13 weeks on end. All of it’s very specific. It’s very different than going into a [football] season. You’re training for pure explosion and speed.”
Mago, 22, said his training timeline did not fit with last year’s combine, but was determined to take a shot this year.
“I knew this was the right place to get in front of those NFL scouts,” Mago said. “It’s kind of living the dream, coming out here and doing it all.”