By KEVIN THOMPSON
"And the newest member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame is..."
It's okay to dream of landing a spot in the most hallowed hall of professional football.
Converting that dream into reality is what separates most pretenders from the potential players.
Such is the case for Lakin's Joseph McCombs.
The soon-to-be senior participated in a combine in Canton, Ohio, last month that showcased the running back's skills and showed how he fared among other high school athletes from around the country.
The combine was sponsored by Pro-Motion Sports USA, a college sports recruiting firm.
"I had a pretty good season but I didn't quite know how good it was," he said. An invitation to participate in a regional combine in St. Joseph, Mo., in April was enough of a carrot to entice him to see just how good he was.
It was in St. Joe that McCombs saw how he fared against other competition. Five skills awaited each athlete, and he ended up with the top sprint time, top standing broad jumper and top vertical jump.
"It was a fun experience and I had fun doing it," he said.
The invitation to showcase those skills in Canton came next, the culmination of 36 states and eight other combines. The field was just down the road from the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and that was motivation enough for him.
"Once I got the invitation I started training harder to get ready for that," he said. "I knew better what to expect, and once again I was one of the top athletes based on my stats."
In the standing broad jump, he jumped 9-10; his vertical was 36 inches; his 40-yard dash was a 4.46; the shuttle run was a 4.47. The bench press was his "weakest" event, he said. He "only" ripped off 185 pounds, but that's 25 pounds more than he weighs himself.
For his efforts, he was awarded the top performer among all the running backs and quarterbacks.
"I knew my stats were good. I just didn't know they were that good," he said.
That's why he was surprised when his name was called to receive the honor.
Now he's just waiting to hear if he gets invited to Tampa Bay, Fla., to play in the first Blue-Grey Super Combine football game next winter.
Besides the individual skill tests, McCombs said the athletes got to do some one-on-one drills and also some 7-on-7 scrimmaging.
"They videoed us doing the one-on-ones to show off our potential skills. They can use those to show colleges what they were looking at," he said.
They also taped personal statement interviews where each athlete got to tell potential recruiters more about themselves. That was probably the worst part of the entire experience, he said.
"I went in not as confident and kind of shaky," he explained. "I'm not used to being in front of a camera, but I think I did pretty well. I wish I could go back and do another try."
At 5-11 and 160 pounds, McCombs said he was about average size for the running backs at the combine. Few were in the shape he was, though, a tribute to his spring track training. He finished fifth in the state 3A 300-meter hurdles, so he had very little body fat.
Football, for him, is an adrenaline rush, he said, even more so than track.
"All my life I've been a competitive person. When I step on the field, I feel like there's no more worries. I just have to focus on what I'm doing. I've always liked to run and hit people," he laughed.
He said he's played football since he was eight years old. He became a running back over time but injuries to the starting backs last season shoved him into the starting position and then some.
"I just took it on my shoulders and did what needed to be done. I had to take on all the responsibilities they had," he said. "And I got to show people who didn't believe in me what I had."
Besides football, track and basketball, the Bronc athlete is also a student who likes science, some math, and history, where he likes learning about what has already happened.
Touring the hall of fame was right up his alley, in that respect.
"There's a lot of history in that place," he said. "I saw a lot of the people I look up to and learned about them and how they got there."
Learning about how the game started and how it's developed was also interesting, he said.
"I don't know if I'd be able to play back then," he explained about learning how the early "helmets" were just leather. "It was more like rugby then."
His day starts at 5:30 a.m. when he lifts weights. Then he works on a farm until nighttime. After some down time, it's off to bed and the schedule starts all over the next day. That discipline is what he hopes will take him far in life.
One of the speakers at the super combine has the same philosophy about life that he has, McCombs said.
"He told us that we all bring our own thing to the table. There are all these chances out there. Once you get a chance, you've got to run with it. He told me that if you have a goal, never give up on those. You have to have dedication for what you do," he said. "Without dedication, I wouldn't be where I'm at right now."