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Hopeful Locals Readying For NFL Draft

Posted Mar 4, 2016

Westerman, Perkins, Wright among those with Arizona ties who attended combine

Former Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright (left) and former UCLA/Chandler High running back Paul Perkins await their NFL destinations.

The Cardinals weren’t the only ones who went to the NFL Scouting combine aiming to improve their situation. Several players with local ties are expected to be chosen in one of the draft’s seven rounds in late April. The journeys of D.J. Foster and Kyler Fackrell have been chronicled. Here is a look at some of the others from in-state who made the trek to Indianapolis:

Chandler High/UCLA running back Paul Perkins

It took some prodding from former Chandler High School teammate Brett Hundley for Paul Perkins to even get a scholarship offer from UCLA in 2013. Three years later, he’s on his way to joining the Packers quarterback in the NFL.

Perkins was lightly recruited by colleges during high school but made a quick impact for the Bruins. He saw regular time as a freshman and then took off as a sophomore, rushing for 1,575 yards and nine touchdowns on 6.3 yards-per-carry. Perkins wrapped up his Bruins career by running for 1,343 yards and 14 touchdowns this season and finished as the school’s third all-time leading rusher.

Perkins is projected as a mid-round pick, but he still has the personality of an underdog.

“I’m walking and I’m looking at the banners, all the cameras, and I never thought some kid from Chandler High School would be at the combine,” Perkins said. “This is a dream come true.”

Even growing up, Perkins was sometimes overshadowed by younger brother Bryce, a big-time recruit who currently plays quarterback for Arizona State. So when Paul hears all the buzz about Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott or Alabama’s Derrick Henry and nothing about himself, it has no effect.

“I’m just going to work in silence and sharpen my sword quietly,” Perkins said.

Hamilton High/Arizona State guard Christian Westerman

A big topic of discussion surrounding Westerman has been his impressive weight-room feats, which includes a maximum bench press of “about 500 pounds,” he said. Westerman did 34 reps of the 225-pound bench press at the combine, which he said was actually a disappointment after aiming for the mid-40s.

It’s not only his strength which could make Westerman appealing at the NFL level, but his flexibility. The former high school left tackle played left guard in college, and he may also be able to play center.

“I’m up for anything,” Westerman said. “I know I can play center just as well as the guard spot. You’ve got to be able to play multiple spots in this league.”

The Cardinals could use some help on the interior, and Westerman said he’s familiar with the team since he watched them growing up.

“I did, just being born in Arizona, going to Cardinals games since I was a little kid,” Westerman said. “They got some good players (on their line) but it would be good to go back there.”

Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright

Wright’s an interesting case. He doesn’t wow with his measurables and suffered through an injury-plagued 2015, but was a monster in 2014. The linebacker had 164 tackles, 31 tackles for loss and 15 sacks as a sophomore, and any team that puts a lot of emphasis on college production will certainly be intrigued.

Wright only ran a 4.91-second 40-yard dash at the combine, but believes the tape shows his game speed.

“You don’t get 31 tackles (for loss) by being slow,” Wright said.

Wright said he’s heard comparisons to former Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas. Compiling a career that comes anything close to the seven-time Pro Bowler’s would be a dream scenario, and Wright knows it.

“To be even be mentioned in the same sentence as Zach Thomas is kind of a compliment in itself,” Wright said. “He was my favorite player growing up and I don’t have the street cred to be mentioned in the same sentence as him.”

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