By Brandon Speck/NEMS Daily Journal
The Tupelo Combine is back for the fifth consecutive time Saturday at Tupelo High School.
The combine originally toured college campuses until the NCAA stopped allowing it.
Columbus-native and Scout’s Southeast Region Recruiting Analyst Steve Robertson found himself complaining about the lack of attention Mississippi kids were getting and decided to do something about it.
Neal McCoy and the Tupelo Convention and Visitor’s Bureau expressed interest and the combine began.
“I finally just got tired of complaining about it,” Robertson said. “We were able to get together and make some things happen. We’re trying to get exposure for the kids.”
Robertson still feels like North Mississippi is under-recruited.
More then 300 players are pre-registered for this years combine, a free event. Among them are top recruits, athlete Ashton Shumpert of Itawamba AHS and Columbus lineman Jake Thomas.
Robertson wants the combine to be inclusive. He takes the majority of references from coaches.
“Of course you want to give everyone an opportunity to come and see what it’s all about, but we really want to limit it to guys who have a legitimate chance to play beyond the high school level,” he said.
Coaches not allowed
It’s held yearly on Memorial Day weekend with many of the same volunteers. College coaches aren’t allowed at the event, nor are college logos on the shirts of volunteers. Fans are encouraged to watch but can’t have any interactions with participants.
Robertson posts players numbers from the day online and sends the list out to numerous bordering state colleges. Past participants have included 2012 first round NFL draft pick and former Mississippi State Bulldog Fletcher Cox, as well as current Bulldogs quarterback Tyler Russell and receiver Chad Bumphis. Current Ole Miss freshman Channing Ward impressed with his times at the event as a sophomore.
“At the end of the day, it should be a celebration of football in our state,” Robertson said. “I’ve got a passion for our kids in Mississippi and I want to do what I can to help them get exposed, especially our small town kids who are under-recruited. Now that the Internet has become what it is, the kids are able to get a little more exposure.”
Registration begins at 9 a.m., testing at 10.