Two former high school football standouts, Fort Meade’s Onterio McCalebb and Frostproof’s Nickell Robey, are getting a chance to earn jobs in the National Football League.
While neither were drafted in last week’s NFL draft, the pair signed free agent deals shortly after it ended, McCalebb with the Cincinnati Bengals, and Robey with the Buffalo Bills.
Both diminutive players were considered possible late round draft picks, but many feel that going undrafted can be an advantage over actually being picked late, because the player can then chose a situation that might be more right for them.
McCalebb played four years at Auburn, and Robey three at USC, coming out of college after his junior season.
McCalebb raised eyebrows with a very fast 40-time at the NFL scouting combine held earlier this year, and figures to perhaps have his best chance to stick in the NFL as a special teams player or third down back, a fact not lost on the former Miner.
“I can come in and help them win and help a team get to the playoffs just with my role on special teams,” McCalebb told Brandon Marcello of www.al.com before the draft.
He said he wasn’t sure if he’d be drafted, but getting a chance was all that mattered.
“As long as I get the phone call and an opportunity to go out there and show what I can do,” McCalebb said, “If I ended up being a free agent, that’s still a blessing to me.”
His Auburn coach, Gus Malzahn, said McCalebb deserved a chance.
“Onterio is one of the fastest guys in college football the last few years,” he told al.com. “He has the wow speed. He’s a great competitor. He’s tougher than people think, too, and he loves the game of football. In the right situation, in the right type of offense, I really feel like he can shine and of course I think in the return game, too, he’s a definite factor.”
In 2008, as a senior in Fort Meade, he ran for 1,995 yards rushing and 27 touchdowns, and added 11 pass receptions for scores. He also returned two kickoffs for touchdowns.
In 2010, he played alongside quarterback Cam Newton when Auburn won the national championship. He totaled 24 career touchdowns and rushed for 2.586 yards.
Robey became the first USC true freshman to start a season opener at cornerback in the post-World War II era, and ended his Trojan career with seven touchdowns.
While at Frostproof, his 2009 honors included Super Prep All-Dixie as a senior defensive back and running back where he amassed 764 yards on 88 carries, scoring nine times. He also caught 17 passes, six for touchdowns. Defensively, he had 73 tackles, two interceptions and a pair of forced fumbles. He also averaged 17.1 yards on eight punt returns and 34.7 yards on seven kickoff returns in 2009.
As a junior, he made All-State 2B first team and All-County first team. He ran for 1,600 yards with 10 TDs and caught 33 passes for 475 yards with four touchdowns on offense and had six interceptions on defense. In 2007, he ran for 1,500 yards on offense and had 40 tackles and 7 interceptions on defense.
He also was on Frostproof’s baseball team (earning All-State second team honors) and track (bests of 10.71 in the 100 meters, 23’-9” in the long jump and 45’-11” in the triple jump) teams. He was the 2010 State 2A District 8 and Region 2 long jump champion.
His cousin is Carlton Thomas, a tailback at the University of Georgia from 2009 to 2011. Robey was one of 16 Trojans who spent five days in Haiti in the spring of 2012 building homes and assisting those in need.
Also signing free agent deals after the draft was University of South Florida kicker Maikon Bonani of Lake Wales with the Tennessee Titans, Michigan offensive lineman Ricky Barnum of Lake Gibson with the Washington Redskins, and Lake Region linebacker Charles Dieuseul of Mount Union College with the New York Giants.