This No. 1 pick is a real top dog

Sarah Spain

Say hello to Fletcher, the newest star on Team Spain.

This week, more than 300 prospects will descend upon Indianapolis for the 2012 NFL combine. Coaches, scouts and doctors will poke and prod each athlete, looking for signs of greatness or hints of weakness.

Here in Chicago, the newest member of my team has already been selected -- no combine visit necessary. Get a load of this scouting report.

Solid build, and it looks like he'll put on another 20 to 30 pounds in the next year or two. Fantastic agility, better-than-average awareness and can jump out of the building. Can gain ground when a ball is in the air, and has both impressive top-end speed and an explosive closing burst. A born leader, he's got a good mental makeup, impressive natural instincts and off-the-charts intelligence. Young and raw, but takes well to coaching, so any minor behavioral issues shouldn't be a problem long-term.

They tell you not to fall in love with a prospect after just a few days, but how could you deny the upside of this guy?

Sarah Spain

Fletcher, an Australian cattle dog mix, can be a little freewheeling at the moment, but he takes well to coaching.

Meet Fletcher, the newest member of Team Spain.

After holding our own mini-combine at the local Anti-Cruelty Society, my boyfriend and I decided Fletcher best fit our needs. We were looking for an energy guy with good size and great intelligence, and this little Australian cattle dog mix seemed to fit the bill.

It wasn't an easy choice, though, as there were plenty of other dogs in the race.

Heading into the combine we had Sunshine, a 7-month-old shepherd mix, at the top of our draft board. She had good size and an even temperament and she responded quickly to positive coaching. Unfortunately, she wasn't as impressive as we hoped in interviews -- her slow, sleepy demeanor had us worried she might take too many plays off.

A few other prospects impressed on Day 1, including two more shepherd mixes, Bow Wow and Kenai, but it was a 4-month-old terrier/bulldog mix named Petey who had us reconsidering our draft order. He had the biggest motor of any of the prospects, was eager to please and was an excellent communicator. After much deliberation, we decided his mouth might get him into trouble and he lacked the poise needed to excel on our team.


After all the pups offered up urine samples (no doping scandals for us) and took a WonderLick test (we love kisses!), we decided Fletcher was our guy -- we were ready to make our pick.

Unfortunately, the adoption window had closed for the day. We were told to come back early the next afternoon and were warned others might also be coming for our dog!

I could barely sleep that night. I imagined people all over Chicago logging onto the Anti-Cruelty Society website and spotting our little man. I debated bringing valuables -- jewelry, autographed footballs, anything! -- just in case getting Fletcher might require trading up in the draft order.

The Anti-Cruelty Society opened at noon on Saturday, so we arrived 20 minutes early, expecting to wait outside locked doors. To our great chagrin, they had already let a handful of prospective drafters inside, sending them to wait in a downstairs "green room."

I took a seat and stared 'em all down with my best stink-eye, hoping to assert myself as the alpha dog. As the room started to fill up, I began to look more and more like Brady Quinn on draft day: sweaty, fidgety and increasingly uncomfortable.

At noon, a voice came over the PA announcing the opening of the adoption room upstairs. Team Spain was officially on the clock. I deftly slid past a family with two young daughters and hit the stairs, trailing only a big guy in a leather jacket who had been positioned right by the door. At the top, leather man (no doubt on his way to steal Fletcher) got tied up by a group of people who had just arrived, none of whom knew where they were going.

This was my chance! All it took was a quick swim move and a slide along the wall, and I was past the crowd and into the adoption room. I headed straight for Fletcher and claimed him before anyone else had made it through those swinging doors. After a screening interview and a little paperwork, my boyfriend and I headed upstairs to pay. And unlike the Colts at April's NFL draft, we had to dish out only $125 for our No. 1 pick.

There have been a few big busts at the NFL combine -- Maurice Clarett's 4.82 40 comes to mind -- as well as plenty of "workout warriors" who peaked in Indy and never made it happen in the league. We're about as worried about Fletcher as the Colts are about Andrew Luck. This dog is a star -- and he didn't even need to get weighed in his undies or answer the all-important combine interview question: "Burger King or McDonald's?"

When it comes to the newest member of Team Spain, we're already thinking first-ballot Hall of Fame.

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