The road to the NFL has been full of speed bumps for Carmel Catholic High School graduate Sean McGrath.
A 6-foot-5, 247-pound tight end/long snapper from Chicago's northwest suburbs, McGrath is trying to overcome a series of football related obstacles to earn a spot on an NFL 53-man roster next fall. The early outlook for McGrath, who spent the last two seasons playing for Division II Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, appears to be either a late-round draft pick or priority free agent.
McGrath began his collegiate career at Eastern Illinois where he started as a sophomore, but he was dismissed from the team for a violation of team rules. He then transferred to Henderson State but was forced to sit out the 2009 season.
"You really learn to respect the game once it's taken away from you," McGrath said. "Sometimes you don't appreciate things until they are gone. I grew up a lot from that experience."
Once eligible, McGrath turned in his best collegiate campaign with 55 catches for 656 yards and four touchdowns, including an eight-catch game for 130 yards. However, McGrath missed seven games his final year at Henderson State due to a Jones fracture he suffered in his foot, which happened right after the opening week of the season. He rushed back for the final four games but was nowhere close to 100 percent.
"I'm totally recovered at this point from the injury," McGrath said. "But teams ask me about it all the time, which I understand, because signing a guy to an NFL team is a major commitment. But I'm just back getting in my grove right now."
Although he did not receive an invite to the NFL Combine, McGrath did participate in a pair of college All-Star games, which he called an invaluable experience. He's turned in times (4.79 in the 40-yard dash) at a variety of pro days that would have put him in the top five of scores registered by the tight ends who did attend the combine back in February. Those workouts caught the eye of a Chicago Bears area scout who got McGrath an invitation to the club's local Pro Day held at Halas Hall on April 13. The tight end also had a private workout recently with the Green Bay Packers.
"The Bears workout as really fun," McGrath said. "It was so nice to actually go out and do some football activities. We blocked and ran routes. A little more enjoyed than the cone drill, shuttle and tests like that."
There seems to be a shift right now in the NFL towards pass-catching tight ends, but although McGrath appears to have the coveted trifecta of size, speed and athleticism, he's hoping to sell teams on his ability to be well-rounded.
"I really would like to envision myself as a true tight end," McGrath said. "Kind of a best-of-both-worlds player. Whether it's blocking or catching the football, I want to be counted on to do both."