ORLANDO, Fla. -- Upon returning from the Orlando Junior Combine, team leader Vinnie Pacelli had one word to say "wow." Coach Pacelli has been with the NUC since its inception, working some of the biggest events in history, but following Sunday afternoon's event at Jones High, he assured us that it was the best group of athletes he had ever seen.
From a statistical and athletic standpoint, it is hard to claim otherwise.
JJ Keels (Melbourne, Fla./Florida Air Academy) was the best of this elite group, winning the overall MVP award. The 5-foot-9, 182-pound running back had a 36-inch vertical, a 9-foot, 10-inch broad jump, ran a 4.35 shuttle, 4.42 40, had great hands, impressive agility, nice quickness and managed to create separation between himself and the defense. Keels can do just about anything on the field.
Collin Brown (Orlando/Timber Creek) was crowned Combine King and also won the LB MVP. An unparalleled athlete at 5-11, 217, Brown had a 36-inch vertical, 10-foot, 4-inch broad jump, ran a 4.38 shuttle, bench pressed 185 pounds 23 times and did a great job of jamming the running back during one-on-ones. Between his athleticism and skill as a running back, there are few faults you can find in Brown.
David Nelson (Orlando/Olympia) won the QB MVP, making the day that much easier for the talented offensive skill position players. Nelseon has no problems reading defenses, has a good arm, quick feet and runs a 4.58 shuttle.
Aaron Nielsen (Orlando/Freedom) Is everything a coach could want from his tight end, at 6-4, 213. He is athletic (jumping a 9-foot broad jump), strong, has good hands, runs nice routes and definitely has the tools to become a star blocker. In winning the TE MVP, Nielson can expect to have all eyes on him.
On the opposite end of the ball was Devin Gaulden (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./University School). Gaulden refused to give into any idea that the offense would dominate the individual, doing far better than holding his own. Gaulden did a great job of playing the ball and jamming the receivers. He also ran a 4.22 shuttle, 4.56 40 and had a 8-foot, 9-inch broad jump en route to winning the DB MVP.
Terrance Carey and Michael Thornton, both of Miami Northwestern, shared the OL MVP. The duo were each around 5'11 270, had tremendous strength and knew how to neutralize the opposing linemen.
Frank Martin (Mount Dora, Florida) and Kenneth Judson (Orlando/Jones) handled business at the opposide side of the ball taking home the DL MVP. Comparisons between the two really ended there. Martin, at 5-11, 274, had surprising quickness for a player his size (running a 4.57 shuttle) and used his width to excel during the individual period.
Judson, at 6-0,187, is undoubtedly undersized, but he has Dwight Freeney-like athleticism to compensate for it. With a 30-inch vertical, 10-foot broad jump, 4.26 shuttle run and lightning quickness, he was able to overcome his size disadvantage during the individual period. He will more than likely have to switch to linebacker, but he should be just fine at a new position.
Props must also go out to RB MVP Tramauvaince Jackson (Marianna, Fla.), strongest man Tyler Chaudoin (Oviedo, Fla.), WR MVP Aaron Baysdon (Lakeland, Fla./Kathleen) and return standout Clim Robbins (Orlando/Jones).
With the elite performance list looking more like a novel, Orlando's Junior Session is one for the record books.