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O'HARA: Wayne State OL Nate Theaker taking part in Combine

Nate Theaker might admit to having felt a little anxiety as he awaited word a few weeks ago on what would be a significant step in his football career.

Theaker was expecting to be informed that he'd been invited to participate in the 2017 NFL Combine, which begins this week in Indianapolis.

Theaker had taken care of his business on the playing field as a versatile offensive lineman for Wayne State. He made the first team on the Associated Press 2016 Little All-America team, and in the postseason he played on the winning National team in the 2017 NFLPA College Bowl Jan. 21 in Carson, Calif.

View photos of the prospects participating in the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine.

In a call to the Combine committee a few weeks ago to see where he stood, Theaker was told the deadline for notification was Monday, Jan. 30.

In the old days, that would have meant sitting on the porch, waiting for the mailman to come down the street. The computer age changed that long ago.

"They told me to keep checking my email – that I'd be notified," Theaker said the other day.

"That whole day (Jan. 30), I was checking my email," he said. "Finally, at 8 o'clock, I got it (the invitation) from the Combine committee. I got this detailed letter that I'd been selected. I had to fill out a bunch of forms – go through a private server to fill out all that stuff."

There are prospects from bigger schools with bigger names than Theaker whose only questions going to the Combine will be how high they'll be drafted in the first round on April 28, or if they'll be the first player drafted at their position.

None of that concerns Theaker and dozens of others with similar backgrounds who are among this year's 330 invitees.

"If you're good enough, the pros will find you," Theaker said.

Theaker, who grew up in White Lake and played at Lakeland High School, was good enough at Wayne State to get noticed.

Theaker, 23, was a six-year player for the Warriors. He was a redshirt freshman on the 2011 team that lost to Pittsburgh State in the Division II national championship. Theaker was granted a sixth year in 2016 to complete his eligibility after missing the 2015 season with back surgery.

He played 42 career games for the Warriors with 33 starts -- 14 at right guard, 11 at left tackle and eight at right tackle. At just under 6-5 and 320-325 pounds, he is projected as a guard prospect in the NFL.

For players from Division II schools like Wayne State, which competes in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, a Combine invite is a big deal because it's chance to compete under equal circumstances in front of the scouts and coaches of all 32 teams.

If there is such a thing as a Division II power conference, the GLIAC qualifies. Cornerback Brandon Carr of Grand Valley, running back Joique Bell of Wayne State and offensive linemen Jared Veldheer of Hillsdale and Todd Herremans of Saginaw Valley are GLIAC alums who've had long careers.

Defensive end Matt Judon of Grand Valley was drafted by the Ravens in the fifth round last year and had an impressive rookie season with three sacks, two pass breakups and a fumble recovery.

Theaker has trained at the Barwis Methods Training Center in Plymouth since the end of Wayne State's season to get ready for the Combine. It has been called "The Underwear Olympics" for the way players are put through strength, speed and agility drills with no contact and without wearing pads and helmets.

Theaker will be in Indy Tuesday through Friday with the rest of the offensive line group to take part in the on-field drills, physical exams, team interviews and other tests.

Theaker compares the Combine process to going to grad school – something he did for his last year of eligibility at Wayne State to begin work on a master's degree in criminal justice.

"It's kind of like getting a college degree," Theaker said. "You do the whole process – everything you can to get the best grade. All you're doing is showing your dedication to doing what it takes to get ahead. At the end of the day, are you a guy who's willing to work to get good times?

"It just comes with the dream (of playing in the NFL). I've always visualized being in that position. Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to do it."

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