For the second consecutive year, Western will most likely have a player chosen in the NFL draft, which starts on Thursday, April 25.
Last year it was kicker Greg Zuerlein who was selected in the sixth round of the draft by the Saint Louis Rams. This year, it’s defensive end David Bass and runningback Michael Hill who are on the radar of the highest level.
Possibly getting Hill and Bass to the next level is a big achievement for coach Jerry Partridge and his staff. While Zuerlein only spent one season kicking at Western, Bass and Hill were program players who each spent five years as Griffons. Both players were largely unrecruited by other universities coming out of high school, redshirted their freshman seasons and made strides in performance every year.
Bass, a 6-4 262 pound defensive end, came to Western weighing in at only 200 pounds and added 60 to his frame in the weight room. He started for four straight years and broke the all-time Western sack record with 39.5 for his career.
“He looks the part,” Partridge said of scouts looking at Bass after he broke the record. “His measurements are good, he just needs to put some numbers up and he’s already done that throughout his career.”
Scouts got a look at Bass already at the NFL combine and in the East West Shrine Bowl where he competed alongside top FBS Division I prospects and showed promise.
“Bass has room to refine his pass rush moves to be more effective, but he flashed in practice why he was able to be so productive in college,” said Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com.
Bass projects is projected to be drafted sometime in between rounds four and seven.
Hill’s future in the NFL is considered less of a sure thing, but the 5-10 204 pound halfback’s stock has been on a steady rise, which should be no surprise to those who have seen him play.
Hill broke the all-time and single season rushing record at Western and carried for 4,601 yards as a Griffon. He led the entire nation in rushing yards as a senior and was a finalist for the Harlon Hill trophy, awarded to the nation’s best Division II player.
He was a power runner at Western who would hit defenses just as hard as they hit him. He would routinely send corners and safeties from opposing defenses out with injury from hitting them when they were supposed to be punishing him.
Hill dominated at the Raycom College All-Star Classic, which also featured 22 players from the SEC – widely considered the best football conference in the nation at any level. Hill put himself on the map with two long runs for 45 and 54 yards with two touchdowns.
Even if he doesn’t hear his name called in the draft, Hill is likely to be invited to a pro camp and have an opportunity to make a team.
Arian Foster, who went undrafted in 2009, but eventually made the NFL as a free agent and is a three time all-pro. Hill hopes to be a diamond in the rough for any team that takes a chance on him.