SPHS grad tries out for the NFL

Sunday, June 21, 2009

CROWN POINT -- Dreams.

They're something that everybody has. Some dream of being on the Broadway stage while some dream of being a rock star, rocking out in a stadium in front of a thousand screaming fans. Then there is the dream that almost every young athlete has -- making the pros.

Few people ever truly pursue their dreams, especially the dream of playing a professional sport, but there is one person who did. Since he was big enough to hold a football and wear his dad's jersey, he was determined to play professional football. Even after he was passed over for a starting position for three years in high school, he never quit and pushed forward towards his dream and went on to play in college. Not even a knee injury, something that can sideline an athlete for life, has kept him from pursuing his dream.

His name is Jacob Paige and this is his story.

Last month, Paige took a shot at his lifelong dream of playing professional football when he took part in a combine, the event that every person has to go through to make it to the pros, in Chicago.

But his story starts long before his trip to Chicago. It began when he was born.

"My first baby photos that I had taken were with me in my dad's jersey next to his MVP trophy," Paige said.

Maybe it was genetic or maybe it was destiny, but when Paige entered the fourth grade he started playing football and hasn't stopped since.

"I almost got to play when I was in third grade, because I was bigger than all the other kids, but then they looked at my birthday and told me I had to wait," Paige said

Paige's journey has not been an easy one, but it has been a successful one.

When he finally entered high school, Paige played under the former South Putnam High School football coach Mark Wildman and according to Paige, learned a great deal about life.

"Mark Wildman was like a mentor to me," Paige said. "Through his coaching, football taught me discipline and respect. Football made me a stronger person."

It took Paige four years to make the starting lineup at South Putnam, enduring constant physical and mental challenges, growing after each challenge. And that is the one thing that Wildman remembers the most about Paige -- his dedication.

"He was a good player," Wildman said. "He was one of those people that seemed young when they were playing, but as they got older they would continue to grow.

"And as he grew in high school, he got closer and closer to being a starter and even when he didn't make it at first, he kept trying," Wildman said about his former player. "He never gave up and I'm glad he went on to play in college."

Wildman also said Paige never stopped after accomplishing one goal.

"The first goal was to play high school football, then it was to be a starter, then it was to play college. He never quit," Wildman said. "He has always had the mentality of no matter how things were going to never quit and reach your goal."

His dedication caught more than the eye of his coach, it caught the interest of several colleges, including University of Louisville and Ball State. But in the end, Paige selected Franklin University as his next step in life.

Paige played his freshman year at Franklin, but then during his sophomore season he suffered a knee injury that sidelined him for the rest of the season.

"It killed me to stand there and not be able to play football with my teammates," Paige said. "I love football, I mean I bleed football."

But not even a knee injury could keep Paige off the field. Instead of just laying around being angry that he couldn't play, he got involved with football in another way -- coaching.

He was an assistant coach at Cloverdale for a year but, for the last two years, he has been the assistant football coach at Greencastle High School, teaching the younger generations the values that were bestowed upon him when he was that age. He is also finishing his degree in recreation at Franklin University, but that all changed.

Paige's love and passion for football prompted a friend of his tell him about a way he could try out for the pros and without even giving it a second thought, Paige threw his hat in the ring.

"After my friend gave me the web address, I got online immediately and filled out the application and a couple weeks following is when I got my letter of acceptance to the combine," Paige said.

Coming from a small town like Greencastle, Paige knew that the odds were against him of making the cut. He was walking onto the field with Division I athletes who have been groomed for their shot in the pros, so what kind of chance does Paige really have of making the cut?

As good as any one of them had.

"I've done the scout days and I've hung in there with Division I athletes, so that doesn't scare me," Paige said. "I knew I could handle the intensity of the combine."

Guess what? He did too.

Paige withdrew from school and on May 31, Paige walked onto the field at North Central College in Chicago and took a shot at his dream of playing professional football.

"I didn't know what to expect when I got there," Paige said

Paige wasn't just trying to make it as any kind of player; he went to the combine in hopes of becoming a long snapper in the NFL. The long snapper is the one who snaps the ball for field goals and punt attempts.

"Everyone has always told me that I was a good long snapper so that is what I'm trying for," Paige said. "Now if a team picks me up and decides to move me into a different position, then I will play it. But right now I am concentrating on being a long snapper."

Paige said he was confident in his abilities when he arrived at the field, but that didn't mean he wasn't nervous.

"Oh yeah I was nervous," Paige said. "But after I snapped my first ball, everything came back to me.

"It's like riding a bike, once you learn it; it becomes natural to you," Paige said.

Throughout the day, Paige went through several different drills and exercises, showing off his talent.

"They ranked your snaps with a system from 1-to-3, with one being that catcher doesn't have to move their hands at all where three means they had to move their hands a lot," Paige said. "I had zero three's"

But even though he had a solid performance, he is still waiting to hear from the pros.

"None of the actual team scouts were there, but they do get a copy of all my results from the drills," Paige said. "I feel good about how I performed and all the guys that were working the combine said that I did a great job and I am at the level the scouts are looking for."

There was one person at the combine that was more proud of Paige than he was himself -- his girlfriend Ashley Dal Corobbo.

"I'm just so proud of him," Dal Corobbo said. "He has had such a rough time since his knee surgery his sophomore year of college and I know how important this tryout was for him.

"This tryout was a test of his ability and of himself. It was a way for him to see if he can still play football as well as he did before his surgery," Dal Corobbo.

Throughout his whole endeavor, Dal Corobbo has been by Paige's side and she knows that one way or the other, he will be playing in the pros.

"He has the mindset that this is what he really wants to do and I am going to be as supportive as I can," Dal Corobbo said. "When he told me he was going to try out for the pros, it caught me off guard, but I was really excited because I love football and so does he."

Paige said now it's a waiting game for him.

"Now I have to wait and see if anyone picks me up," Paige said. "But I'm not going to sit around and do nothing. I'm going to be sending out my tape and letter to all the Canadian football teams to see if I can get picked up by one of them."

No matter what happens from this point on, Dal Corobbo said that she is proud of him.

"This is a big thing for him and I told him that I am proud of him because a lot of people don't even have the courage to go for something like this," Dal Corobbo said. "What ever comes of this, he is one step closer to his dream and goal than most people will ever be."