Barrington SPARQ event a proving ground

LAKE BARRINGTON, Ill. -- Amundsen junior Chris Price wasn’t sure what to expect from himself when he decided to compete at the Nike SPARQ Combine at the Lake Barrington Field House on a recent weekend.

Price, a 5-7, 200-pound running back, has always dreamed of playing college football, and he knew his SPARQ rating -- combination of 40-yard dash time, shuttle run, power-ball throw and vertical -- would allow him to gauge where he stood with some of the nation’s top athletes. He just wasn’t sure where that would be.

At the end of the day, Price was smiling.

He ran a 4.78-second 40 and a 4.46-second shuttle. He threw the power ball 31.5 inches. He had a vertical leap of 36.4 inches. All together, it gave him a SPARQ rating of 85.56 and put him in the top 75 of the nearly 1,000 underclassmen to compete in the combine.

“I didn’t really have any high expectations,” Price said. “I just wanted to see how good I am and how good I can be in the future. I’m very, very excited about my score and how fast and good I am. I want to play college football at the next level. I would like to see how it feels to be on the next level.”

Price’s SPARQ rating doesn’t translate to him being offered a Division I scholarship automatically. But it does mean he has Division I athleticism, and some college coach may just take notice of that.

Last year, Rancho Verde (Calif.) defensive back Ryan Henderson won the national SPARQ competition with a 134.79 rating, and he went from being committed to Utah to earning a scholarship offer from USC and signing with the Trojans.

“We try to make this an even playing field in a professional setting for kids to get a fair chance to get a SPARQ rating, which is an overall athletic snapshot,” Nike SPARQ combine director Tyler McClaughry said. “It’s a chance for a kid to come here and kind of see where he stands athletically and try to build on that.

“If he comes out and gets a 60, he might be frustrated by that, but he knows if he goes and trains in the spring and summer and gets that up to a 74, he’s become a better athlete which in turn he becomes a better football player.”

That’s exactly what Pioneer (Ind.) sophomore Joey Miller did. He was disappointed in his previous score of 77.6, trained some more, came back and scored a 102.69 rating in Lake Barrington. His overall rating placed him ninth at the event and first in the Class of 2013.

“I’m trying to do whatever I can to get myself out there,” said Miller, a 5-7 running back. “That’s what I enjoy in life is being out there on the field. I have stuff to work on.

“People are always telling you can’t do things. I’m a little undersized. I know I’m athletic. I know I can get better. I want to prove myself to everyone really.”

The top 15 athletes of the combine also included Waunakee (Ind.) junior Lee Musso (120.27), Romeoville (Ill.) junior Perez Ford (114.66), Nouvel Catholic (Mich.) junior Bennett Lewis (113.97), Grand Blanc (Mich.) junior Clarence Turner (107.04), Port Huron (Mich.) junior Winslow Chapman (103.74), Oak Forest (Ill.) junior Tevin Ford Coleman (103.56), Eden Prairie (Minn.) junior Andrew Larson (103.08), John Hardin (Ky.) junior Jeremy Harness (102.81), Kirkwood (Mo.) junior Michael McHugh (102.66), Geneva (Ill.) junior Ben Rogers (102.48), T.F. South (Ill.) junior Giovanni Canty (101.19), Arsenal Technical (Ind.) junior Jordan Hughes (99.03), Grand Blanc (Mich.) junior Tearon Jamieson (97.77 and Julian (Ill.) junior Steven Reese (97.23).