MAYVILLE - It hasn't been uncommon over the years for Chautauqua Lake Central School football players to stop athletic director Josh Liddell in the halls, or visit him in his office, with a few questions as they attempt to navigate the oftentimes murky waters that is the college football recruitment process.
"The kids come to me all the time and they ask, 'Mr. Liddell, what do I put for this? What do I put for that? What do I put for my pro agility? What do I put for my 40 (yard dash) time?' Liddell said recently.
"(They ask) because they have nothing to put down, because they've never had that experience."
Above, from left, A.J. Hulton of Maple Grove/Chautauqua Lake finished first overall at the Fundamental Football Camp Combine while Chandler Baker of Maple Grove/Chautauqua Lake and Jake Sisson of Jamestown tied for third. Below, Hulton is seen competing in the standing broad jump.
Submitted photo (above), P-J photo by Scott Kindberg (below)
So, Liddell decided to give them exactly that - experience.
Teaming up with Ed Hulton, the Maple Grove/Chautauqua Lake defensive coordinator, the pair added a new piece to this year's edition of the Fundamental Football Camp at CLCS: an NFL-style combine.
"We see a lot of these combines in Ohio and Pennsylvania, but they're hard to find in New York," Liddell explained. "So it was something that we wanted to do for the kids."
And, judging by the turnout, those athletes were glad for the opportunity.
Held on July 19, the "Fundamental Football Camp Combine" (FFCC) brought some 55 football players from Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Erie counties, and tested participants in such familiar events as the 40-yard dash, the pro agility drill (sometimes called the 20-yard short shuttle), the 3-cone drill, the vertical leap and the broad jump.
"We invited (and had) some college coaches (at the event), but we also sent (the results) to head coaches or recruiting coordinators in colleges located in New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio," Liddell said. "They'll go everywhere from the University at Buffalo to Cornell to Washington and Jefferson - those are just a few examples - so whatever (the athletes) get on different events, we make a master sheet and send it off to college coaches for them."
And that could go a long way towards getting deserving area athletes noticed.
Liddell knows all about combines and what they can do for a player. The Maple Grove High School and Mount Union alumnus, who was called in 2003 by scout.com "a special wide receiver," played in the arena football league, and, as an NFL hopeful, took part in his fair share of combines over the years.
"It all comes down to the combine," Liddell said, "especially if you don't go to one of the top-25 BCS schools. If you do well in a combine and you have good numbers, that can kind of put you on the radar screen of different leagues and different teams.
"And it's the same thing for these guys. If they come out here and run a sub-4.54 40, and they give that to the right people, that starts to open up some eyes."
Rest assured, eyes were opened.
A.J. Hulton, a junior on the MG/CL squad, was the event's top performer after recording the best finish in the vertical leap (39 inches) and the broad jump (9-foot-2), the third-best time in the pro agility drill (4.30 seconds) and the fifth-best time in the 3-cone drill (7.34 seconds).
To put those numbers in perspective, if Hulton, who earlier this summer took part in an invite-only combine held by the New York State High School Football Coaches Association in Syracuse and was first in the vertical leap (again he leapt 39 inches), had been taking part in the 2013 NFL combine, his pro agility and vertical leap marks would have put him in the top 100.
Ben Waugh of Portville was the runnerup at the event while Chandler Baker, also of MG/CL, and Jamestown quarterback Jake Sisson tied for third.
Sisson topped the three-cone drill with time of 7.08 and was fourth in the 40-yard dash, finishing in 4.61 seconds.
Gowanda's Brennan Geiger ran the fastest 40 of the day, crossing the line in 4.55 seconds.
All in all, it was a successful first effort for an event that is likely to draw considerably more interest in years to come.
"We thought it went really well," Ed Hulton said. "Josh and I were really happy with it."
- - -
Assistant sports editor Scott Kindberg contributed to this report
1. A.J. Hulton (Chautauqua Lake)
2. Ben Waugh (Portville)
3. Tie-Chandler Baker (Chautauqua Lake), Jake Sisson (Jamestown)
- - -
1. Brennan Geiger (Gowanda)4.55
2. Paul Brinkle (Frontier)4.59
3. Michael-Jordan Morris (Amherst)4.59
4. Jake Sisson (Jamestown)4.61
5. Ben Waugh (Portville)4.68
1. Ryan Miller (chautauqua Lake)4.15
2. Jacob Youngberg (Falconer)4.25
3. A.J. Hulton (Chautauqua Lake)4.30
4. A.J. Swanson (Grand Island)4.33
5. Ben Waugh (Portville)4.41
1. Jake Sisson (Jamestown)7.08
2. Jacob Youngberg (Falconer)7.14
3. Ryan Miller (Chautauqua Lake)7.20
4. Austen Bratek (Starpoint)7.32
5. A.J. Hulton (Chautauqua Lake)7.34
1. A.J. Hulton (Chautauqua Lake)39"
2. Paul Brinkle (Frontier)33"
3. Ben Waugh (Portville)32"
4. Brennan Geiger (Gowanda)32"
5. Ryan Miller (Chautauqua Lake)31"
STANDING BROAD JUMP
1. A.J. Hulton (Chautauqua Lake)9-2
2. Ben Waugh (Portville)9-1
3. Mitch Sandberg (Maple Grove)8-11
4. Austen Bratek (Starpoint)8-11
5. Tie-Morris (Amherst), Brennan Geiger (Gow)8-10