WILKES-BARRE — With heat rising off the turf at Wilkes-Barre Memorial Stadium, Brandon Chafin sat on the artificial surface to complete his stretches.
The Hanover Area wide receiver wasn’t bothered by the steamy humidity even though sweat was pouring profusely off his forehead. The hot, blistering sun bouncing off the surface was hardly noticed by the junior.
He and 20 other local football products were at the stadium for one reason: Improve.
“This is a great opportunity for the local football players. I’ve been going to some camps, getting my numbers, and the guys at Fame have been helping me to improve on those numbers. This is the best way to learn,” Chafin said.
The event was the second annual NEPA High School Football Combine. It was presented by Fame Strength in the city and sponsored by The Marine Corp.
“There was a void in this area. We didn’t have an event like this,” said Josh Mason, owner/head strength coach at Fame and also director of the combine. “It provides an awesome platform to showcase these talents. These kids are looking to go to the college level, and even earn some scholarships.”
This wasn’t your ordinary football camp. No passing drills. No route running. No pad-popping blocks
Instead, it was similar to what you see on the NFL Network when college juniors and seniors are hoping to improve on that coveted draft status.
The bench and weights sitting on the 35-yard line challenged strength.
Cone drills near the end zone tested agility.
And yes, the 40-yard dash that ran in front of the bleachers and spectators was set up for speed.
“This is my first combine, so I just want to get marks,” said Wyoming Valley West’s Aaron Austin, a junior quarterback. “I want to identify my strengths and weaknesses, so I can address them throughout the summer. Plus, it’s nice to see how you can compare to the other area athletes.”
There were six tests in all: 40-yard dash, vertical jump, 20-yard shuttle, 3-cone drill, bench press and broad jump.
“Across the nation, the top recruits are going through these same tests,” Mason said. “It goes all the way to the NFL. Once these guys figure out where they stand, it will help them to identify what areas they need to work on. And it’s always nice to see how you stack up against the best kids in the country.”
A gauge in June. That’s the way most players looked at Sunday’s event.
You can’t put in the work when two-a-days start in August. By then, it’s too late.
It’s the dog-days of summer, pumping iron through the heat or running outside under a sun-baked sky where the greatest strides are accomplished.
“This is when you have to put the work in,” said Willie Wallace, a junior quarterback-safety at Meyers. “It means that I can work hard the next two months so I can progress and meet my goals. Until I get to put the pads on in August, which I can’t wait for, I’ll be in the weight room working toward my goals.”
For some, it was a chance to return to the field.
That included Crestwood’s Domenico Scarano, who took some time away from the sport to get bigger and stronger.
Entering his senior year, the Comet is hoping to lock down the starting spot at fullback.
“I’m not nervous at all,” he said. “I’m pretty excited for this. Usually, if you want to go to a combine like this, you have to go to places like Philly. It’s great to have one close to home. This is an advantage for anyone here. They know exactly where they are at. I’m here on a Sunday morning to get better. Football is improving in this area, and events like help push the sport in the right direction.”
With numbers up from 2014, Mason hopes to continue to grow the event each season.
And hopefully, reach his vision.
“One day, I hope that the Wilkes-Barre event is a regional combine,” the director said.