NFL considers NIU players


There were a lot of big-name Chicago Bears out on the field last Friday at the University of Wisconsin, Platteville, but who was number 19 hanging out with the receiving unit? None other than former NIU receiving standout Larry Wynn.

Wynn is one of two players from last season’s team to be trying out for a spot in the NFL. The other is Rob Wagner; the former NIU nose guard is in camp with the World Champion Dallas Cowboys trying out as a defensive end.

At the start of the afternoon practice Wynn, 6’1″, 181, was warming up with some veteran talent. He was playing catch with Jim Harbaugh, Will Furrer and Tom Thayer. Meanwhile, in the warm Wisconsin sun, dozens of other veterans and rookie hopefuls were warming up.

What’s it like to be in camp and practicing with the Chicago Bears? Wynn can certainly answer that.

“It’s fantastic, you know, because you’ve got Wendell Davis, Anthony Morgan, Tom Waddle, Eric Wright, Curtis Conway, Terry Obee and Antonio Johnson,” said Wynn. “They are a great group to be around and, as far as the whole team, everything is looking up on the offensive side. It looks great.”

Wynn spent the day working with the third stringers in a variety of drills but did a lot of work with the special teams portion of the practice.

“I’m very confident (about making the team),” Wynn said. “I’m more focused on the special teams because I’m having problems with the bump-and-run. I’m moving up in the ranks of special teams so I’m basically shooting for that.”

Wagner, 6’4″, 270, is enthusiastic about working out with the Cowboys in Austin, Texas.

“It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s hard getting adjusted because the one’s and two’s (first and second strings) get most of the reps. Right now, I’m working with the three’s.”

Wagner has a very interesting way at looking at the situation he’s in.

“Three’s don’t get looked at as much and when they do, you have to do something spectacular,” he said. “It’s like being a freshman at college.”

Wagner is very confident about making the team.

“As far as confidence, anything can happen,” he said. “Last year, they had ten defensive linemen and there are 11 in camp. Three of them are rookies and I can do anything the other two can.”

Wynn has been receiving some helpful hints from a couple surprising sources. One of them is fellow rookie free-agent Terry Obee out of Oregon. The second is none other than first round draft pick Curtis Conway from USC.

“He (Conway) is a rookie and all, but he knows a lot about the game—more than I thought he would know,” said Wynn. “They (Conway and Obee) keep me in line and focused on what I need to do.”

Wagner says all the guys have been a big help, especially the two guys he’s playing behind—Charles Haley and Jim Jeffcoat.

“Jeffcoat really stands out because he pulls me aside and explains stuff,” said Wagner. “He’s in his 11th year now so he’s a good role model.”

Both players have contrasting views about the NFL compared to college football, specifically at NIU.

“Practices are easier, not as long,” said Wagner. “There’s a lot more hitting in college. Here, it’s a lot more mental,” he said. “You’re going against some of the best players from other colleges. You either learn it or you don’t.”

“Practices are much longer and speed is a big factor,” said Wynn. “These plays are very complicated. They move you around and you have to get your playbook and really study it. At NIU, I picked it up quick and fast.”

Wynn said the offense is a lot more complicated than it was at NIU because there are a lot of variations in the Bears’ playbook. Wagner compared Dallas’ 4-3 defense to that of NIU’s when Jerry Pettibone was coach and he played tackle.

“In college, we were more or less taught to squeeze the offensive line and let the linebacker make the play,” he said. “Here, we make the play. You can say there is a lot more freedom in the NFL. You can do whatever as long as you make the play.”

As a senior, Wynn led the Huskies in receiving with 37 catches for 538 yards and punt returns with 15 for 284 yards.

Wagner, during his senior year, led NIU linemen in tackles with 55, pass deflections with five and QB sacks with four. He was a four-year letterman during 1989-92 and ended his Huskie career with 33 consecutive starts.

After having practiced with some topnotch NFL clubs, both players have a little advice for future NFL hopefuls.

“Especially receivers like Vaurice Patterson, Otha Brooks and Sean Allgood,” said Wynn. “Shoulders over the toes!”

“Anyone can make it if you are halfway decent,” said Wagner. “You gotta work your butt off and never give up!”

“Here(in the NFL), we make the play. You can say there is a lot more freedom in the NFL. You can do whatever as long as you make the play.

Larry Wynn, former NIU football player