Worthy Investment

The mercurial one

National Football League scouts are under the gun by their respective teams to not make mistakes in their evaluations. If they bypass Ole Miss TB Dexter McCluster for his lack of size, they are making a major blunder.

It never fails.

NFL scouts regularly come to the Ole Miss campus to watch hours and hours of film on the Rebels, like they do at every school.

They leave the film room drooling over #22 - Dexter McCluster.

Then, they meet him in person.

All 5-8, 170 pounds of him.

Their hearts sink a little.

The consensus: "He's so small."

They don't say "too small," but you know that's what they are wondering about.

More film, more dazzling displays of balance, speed, quickness, change of direction, instincts and yes, toughness.

They scratch their heads. How can this be?

They see him get 25-30 touches a game, recently, and come back for more. They see him explode through holes before a defensive player can get a bead on him. They see him almost always make the first would-be tackler miss, sometimes being left stuck in mud and grasping for a ghost. They see his knack for making guys like Tennessee Safety Eric Berry, a sure first-rounder and as good as you will ever see in the open field, look inferior.

Yet, they doubt. . .

Here's what they are missing.

Dexter McCluster doesn't know he's small. It's taken the Ole Miss coaches almost two years to convince him he's not a fullback and that there is no shame in going out of bounds or finding the turf to avoid a collision. He loves contact, but he's finally learned it's better to live and fight another day than perish foolishly for no good reason.

Dexter McCluster has a heart as big as he is. You cannot teach that type of desire, that type of determination, that type of fortitude, that type of intensity. To steal an old cliche', he wants it worse than the next player, maybe every player I've ever known.

Dexter McCluster is a quality human being, someone who lifts a roster's credibility just from his presence.

Dexter McCluster is, pound for pound, as strong as a lot of 200-pounders. His entire body fat is about the equivalent of most people's chins, if that much.

Dexter McCluster is a winner, in every way. Physically, spiritually, in intelligence, in football sense, in life and, for the NFL's purposes, on the football field.

Dexter McCluster has not been any more injury-proned than Percy Harvin, who most likely will be the NFL's Rookie of the Year this season and is cut from the same cloth, only a little more material was used to sculpt Harvin. Yes, Dexter had a devastating injury on a kickoff return as a true freshman, but his injury history since then has been in the normal range for SEC football players and he has missed zero games in the past two years.

Dexter McCluster has a skill set like no other player in the country. It's just sick. There are fast players. There are quick players. There are players who can change direction at full speed. There are players who are versatile. There are players with great hands. There are players with vision. There are players with a knack for the game. But nobody, nobody, has the combination of all those mixed into one player like Dexter.

So, NFL scouts, listen up.

I'm not suggesting Dexter McCluster should be the first player taken in this year's draft. I'm not even sure, as big a fan as I am, I'd take him in the first round.

But if he's not taken sometime soon after that, a major mistake in evaluation has been made, in this humble opinion.

Someone will wise up and take him. He'll be a game-changer.

The ones who didn't, and fell on the too-small sword, will have nightmares for a long time to come.

The NFL is a league full of difference-makers.

They'd be stupid not to add one more to the stable.

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