Travis Chappelear spent last Saturday on the sidelines at Bearcat Stadium taking in Northwest Missouri State's annual Green and White Spring Game.
This weekend, the focus of Northwest's football program is on Chappelear and whether he'll get selected in the NFL Draft.
Of the five Northwest seniors to attract NFL attention, Chappelear is the most likely to hear his name called during the later rounds.
If so, he'd be Northwest's first Draft choice since running back Xavier Omon in 2008.
"We'd all be very proud of him if he can get drafted," said Northwest Missouri State head football coach Adam Dorrel. "Even if he doesn't get drafted and he makes it into camp, to get into an NFL camp you have to be pretty special as an athlete. Any time these kids make it, we're all very proud of them. Everybody is from top to bottom in the whole athletic department to the whole school and the whole community. I think it's pretty neat. We're certainly going to be paying close watch in the next few days to what's going on."
Chappelear, a 6-5, 270-pound defensive lineman, has been generating significant NFL interest since the conclusion of his senior season.
He's listed as the No. 31 ranked defensive end on one NFL Draft website. BleacherReport.com labeled him as one of the 11 biggest sleepers in the Draft and a "poor man's J.J. Watt."
Much of the NFL attention surrounding Chappelear stems from strong showings at Northwest's Pro Day in March and previously at the second annual Casino Del Sol College All-Star Game.
Dorrel and scouts from seven NFL teams witnessed Chappelear's impressive Pro Day workout firsthand.
Chapplear ran a 4.7 in the 40-yard dash—one of the 10 fastest times among all Draft-eligible defensive linemen. His vertical jump was measured at 37 inches, tied for third among all defensive linemen.
Chappelear also threw up 34 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press, fourth-best out of all defensive linemen.
"I think that helped him immensely," said Dorrel. "I think he competed and I think scouts saw that. With his 40-time and bench press, you're talking about speed and power combined with his frame and height at defensive line. I listen to agents and scouts. His agent said he had a great pro day."
Chappelear, who spent time in Florida training for his pro day, has visited with at least one team—the New York Jets—who are reportedly interested in him.
He projects as a defensive end at the next level, but Dorrel says teams have been looking at using him inside or at linebacker.
Chappelear played exclusively at tackle during his two seasons at Northwest but didn't start until he was a senior, making him one of the more unlikely NFL prospects the Bearcats have ever produced.
Page 2 of 2 - The physically gifted Missouri State transfer and Urbana native developed into one of the most dominant interior lineman in the conference as a senior, earning first team All-MIAA honors.
While taking up constant double teams, he recorded 62 of his 79 career tackles last year, one of which came on a critical fourth down play in Northwest's upset of then-No. 1 Pittsburg State at Arrowhead Stadium.
"I'm not sure in all of my years of college football if I've ever seen a guy that made as much of an improvement from his junior to his senior year," said Dorrel. "Even in the MIAA, if you were to ask coaches who Travis Chappelear was last year most of them wouldn't have known who he was, but boy, if you asked them after this year, they would've known who he was. He worked really hard last year to improve himself."
With only one year of starting experience in college, Chappelear is viewed as a prospect with a 'high ceiling.'
If not drafted this weekend, he is almost assured of being in an NFL training camp come July.
Northwest's other pro hopefuls—return man Jordan Simmons, wide receiver John Hinchey, offensive lineman Rod Williams and wide receiver Tyler Shaw are working toward that same goal.
None are expected to be drafted, but have a chance of being picked up as a free agents.
Simmons and Williams have each held try-outs with the Kansas City Chiefs. Shaw, who is finishing his senior year in track, has drawn interest from the Miami Dolphins.
Williams was an All-American left tackle at Northwest and started three years. Simmons and Shaw earned All-MIAA accolades while contributing all four years. They were the team's top two pass-catchers in 2012.
Hinchey finished as Northwest's fourth leading receiver last year.
Teams can begin to sign rookie free agents after the Draft's conclusion this weekend.
The first round of the Draft was Thursday night. Rounds 2-3 are tonight and 4-7 are Saturday.
All seven rounds will be broadcast on ESPN or ESPN2.