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You may not know B-CC's Mathis, but you will

By ROGER MILLS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 20, 2003

Early in Saturday's NFL draft, the name Rashean Mathis will pop up, and fans will respond with a collective "who?"

That would be Rashean Mathis, safety/cornerback/receiver from Bethune-Cookman College, an all-around star who stands a chance of being a first-round pick though he played in Division I-AA.

So you ask, a MEAC player in the first round?

Bucs director of college scouting Ruston Webster said teams know what to look for when scouting at that level.

"It goes into their traits and how they played against their competition," Webster said. "Did they dominate their competition? If a guy dominated against his competition, it makes him easier to take. If a guy has some size, speed and measurables, but didn't really dominate against his competition, then it makes it harder to take a guy like that from a smaller school."

The 6-foot-2, 190-pounder had an outstanding senior season for the Wildcats and turned a number of heads in his workouts. He finished the year with 14 interceptions, was named the MEAC defensive player of the year and won the Buck Buchanan Award, given to the top defensive player in Division I-AA.

He is said to have the size and quick feet needed to play either safety or cornerback in the NFL and, according to Bucs general manager Rich McKay, players like Mathis will show up on every team's board.

"(Small-school players) are very, very hard to evaluate because they are playing against a lot lower level competition," McKay said. "They're not going to play in an all-star game, they didn't go to the (NFL) combine. Their workout day is on really poor, poor fields. ... But you still have to give it to teams who find those guys and make them successful."

THAT'S WHY I PAY YOU: Kansas State cornerback Terence Newman is learning firsthand how the slightest sign of an injury can become problematic for a projected top-10 pick.

Newman, who has been courted by the Bengals and the Texans, has had to fight off rumors that there is nerve damage in the shoulder he injured at the end of the season.

Agent David Ware said it won't stop him from being an immediate impact player.

"I've talked to every team in the top 10 (of the draft), and they all said his shoulder is fine," said Ware, who pointed out that Newman was in for 130 plays in the Wildcats' season finale. "He also benched 225 (pounds) 12 times at the combine. You can't do that with a bad shoulder."

FAMILY TIMES: Boss Bailey, the younger brother of Redskins cornerback Champ Bailey, has been working out with his brother three days a week in preparation for next weekend's draft. And judging from his dazzling performance at the combine, the 6-3, 233-pound linebacker is ready for the NFL. Bailey likely will be the first linebacker taken. And he's not happy about the talk of him moving to safety.

"Definitely linebacker," he said. "I'm a linebacker first. But I've got the athletic ability (to cover receivers). If anybody wants me to go out there one on one, I definitely can do that. I love a challenge."

But don't think he is concerned about the draft.

"I really don't have to tell Boss everything," Champ said. "We pretty much went through my process together, because we were both in school (at Georgia) and living together. He's benefiting from that because he kind of knows what to expect. It hasn't changed much."

And what's with the names? Champ is really Roland Bailey. Boss is really Rodney Bailey.

MORE BROTHERLY LOVE: Casey Urlacher, the younger brother of Bears All-Pro linebacker Brian Urlacher, has been working out with his brother and members of the Bears to improve his stock. The younger Urlacher, who attended Division III Lake Forest College, is projected as a late-round pick who could play linebacker and fullback. Hmmm? When little-known Brian Urlacher came on the scene, scouts had him playing, you guessed it, linebacker or fullback.

STOCKING UP: The Saints, who have made some key acquisitions in free agency, turn their attention to the draft. New Orleans, which sent a third- and seventh-round pick this year to the Patriots for safety Tebucky Jones, still has enough picks to have a big draft: two in the first round (Nos.17 and 18), one in the second (No.50), one in the third (No.86), one in the fifth (No.155) and one in the seventh (No.231).

HUMBLE PIE PLEASE: Already Michigan State receiver Charles Rogers, expected to be among the first three selected in the draft, is convinced of where he should and will go.

"I will go no lower than two," Rogers said candidly. "One or two -- it doesn't matter. I'm not going to be greedy. I'm just going to sit back and wait until April 26 and see where my name is called."

He does have some credentials. As a sophomore, Rogers had 67 receptions for 1,470 yards and 14 TDs. As a junior, he added 68 catches, 1,425 yards and 13 TDs.

"People who know football know I'm the best player in the draft," Rogers said. "I make good plays; I make great catches; I run fast; I can stretch the field; I can get open. I'm all of the above. I feel like I'm the total package. I'm just scratching the surface of my potential."

CULPEPPER ON THE BLOCK?: From the "oh come on" file surfaces this latest rumor: The Vikings, uncertain they will be able to re-sign quarterback Daunte Culpepper after this season, are entertaining options to trade him on or shortly before draft day.

In fact, the Cardinals (No.6) and the Ravens (No.10) have been identified as possible suitors.

Despite owner Red McCombs open denial, there's an intriguing subplot. If the Vikings pull off a trade, they can still get a coveted defensive tackle/end and use their No.7 pick to take Byron Leftwich or Kyle Boller as a replacement for Culpepper.

-- Compiled by Roger Mills. Times staff writer Jamal Thalji contributed to this report, which used information from other news organizations.

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