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Small school prospects refuse to be overlooked at the NFL Combine

Perception and reality don't align for players in the NFL draft from some of the country's smaller college football program.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

University of Texas at San Antonio tight end David Morgan summed up better than anybody the mind set of every small school prospect at the NFL Scouting Combine, "I can't control who I play against. All I can control is what I can control."

From North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz to South Carolina State tight end Temarrick Hemingway, every small school prospect has to butt up against the idea that they've got something to prove, whether it carries merit or not. Wentz carries the draft stock, and thus the mantle, to perhaps speak on behalf of the small school prospects at the combine. His response on Thursday made it clear that the jump to the league is similar, if not equal, for every invitee.

"I think right away the biggest challenge that myself, anybody standing up here at this podium is going to say is adjusting to that speed," Wentz said. "You put on some NFL tape or you watch Monday Night Football, Sunday games or whatever, you realize these guys are playing fast. So you gotta adjust right away and learn to adapt pretty quick. I'm excited for that opportunity."

South Carolina State tight end Temarrick Hemingway added, "I don't look at like it's something more than anyone else has to prove," added Hemingway. "I've got an opportunity to go out there and do my best just like everyone else."

And that's the case even for the small school guys who started somewhere else, like Montana St. tight end Beau Sandland, whose career began at the University of Miami.

"I honestly feel indebted," Sandland offered. " Montana State gave me an opportunity and I'm just grateful that there was someone willing to give me a scholarship. It's the whole reason I'm here."

It's not that they're suffering from a lack of wanting the bigger stage either.

"Man, it was great. I wish I could play LSU every dang week," Western Kentucky quarterback Brandon Doughty said, lighting up when talking about the Hilltoppers' visit to Death Valley last year.

"I feel like you always have to overcompensate [for coming from a small school]. Just my attitude, I feel like I always have to do more, so the combine is the perfect opportunity," Illinois St. running back Marshaun Coprich said. He knows as well as anyone here that the size and stature of the school doesn't matter as much as a player's performance and his resume.