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Combine place to be seen

Published May 23, 2004

TAMPA - Gus Bell was fed up.

Bell had watched his son Erik develop into a standout football player at Braintree High in Massachusetts. He was convinced his son had what it took to play at the next level, but as Erik's senior year progressed, it became apparent college coaches didn't think so.

Was it because Erik wasn't good enough? Or was it due to a lack of exposure? Gus thought it was the latter and took matters into his own hands.

"My Dad was so frustrated," Erik said. "My high school coaches had two or three guys they focused on helping, and I wasn't one of them. So he started sending out my personal information and videotapes of me to colleges."

Gus also began helping Erik's teammates do the same. It was then that Gus realized he was onto something.

"He said "You know what? I can do this on a bigger level,"' Erik said.

Erik graduated in 1988, and Pro-Motion Sports was founded the next year. The company, which Gus and Erik run, has spent the past 15 years aiding high school athletes in their quests to play in college. Pro-Motion Sports held its first Southeast High School Football Combine on Saturday at Raymond James Stadium.

More than 400 athletes from as far away as West Virginia showcased their abilities before about 60 college coaches, including representatives from Auburn, Florida, Georgia Tech, Duke and USF.

"A lot of these colleges can't afford to send guys to each individual player to test them," Erik said. "So we provide a compound testing site to get these athletes exposed."

Athletes were broken into groups according to position. They went through a battery of tests, including the 40-yard dash, standing broad jump and bench press, in which Seminole's Kevin Harris posted the best results with 50 repetitions at 150 pounds. After completing those, athletes did drills to display individual skills.

"This lets some out-of-state schools get a chance to see you, especially if you're from a smaller high school," Brandon quarterback Tyson Gordon said. "There's so much hidden talent out there."

The combine wasn't designed with the blue-chip athlete in mind. Instead, it was put together to expose those that might not have the advanced "superstar" billing or that come from smaller schools with fewer resources.

"Some of the smaller schools in the county don't get the exposure that the big schools like Hillsborough and Jefferson do," said Chris Alexander Sr., whose son Chris plays quarterback at Riverview. "This is beneficial because there's a lot of talent around."

Erik said Pro-Motion Sports doesn't promise each athlete will receive a scholarship, but it does guarantee the exposure it takes to do so. As for Erik and his budding college career?

"The Gulf War happened and I went into the Marines," he said.

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