<
>

Small-school phenom Victor Ochi draws NFL scouts to suburbs

play
Stony Brook's Victor Ochi chases NFL dream (1:34)

ESPN NFL reporter Rich Cimini catches up with pass-rusher Victor Ochi after the Stony Brook pro day. Ochi has a chance to become the first-ever Seawolves player selected in the NFL draft. (1:34)

CORAM, N.Y. -- There was no live television coverage and no sign of Todd McShay or Mel Kiper Jr. There were no general managers or head coaches in the house -- only 17 college scouts, 12 draft hopefuls and one surprise guest. They gathered in a cavernous, multisport facility that usually hosts kids' birthday parties and youth soccer and lacrosse leagues -- not the NFL.

This was the Stony Brook pro day featuring small-school phenom Victor Ochi. No, this north-shore Long Island community was not the epicenter of the NFL scouting circuit on Monday, but dreams are dreams, regardless of the size of the stage. Who cares if this stage is cluttered with soccer goals and lacrosse nets?

The trendy place to be Monday was Ole Miss, where three likely first-round picks worked out for 69 personnel types. But there was no less pressure in the All-Star Arena in Coram, where a dozen NFL wannabes -- representing eight schools in New York -- hoped to do something memorable. For many, it was their first shot and last shot.

"You have to do everything possible because of that rep we have -- a small school, not having much competition," said New York Giants tight end Will Tye, who showed up in the middle of the workout to support his former Stony Brook teammates.

A year ago, Tye was such an unknown before the draft that he remembers only "three or four scouts" showing up for his pro day, which happened to be in the same facility. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.48 seconds. Tye eventually landed a free-agent contract, which made him the first Stony Brook alum to make an NFL roster. He finished his rookie year with 42 receptions and three touchdowns.

On Monday, Tye, wearing a Giants sweatshirt, was a source of inspiration. As he said, "For them to see a guy that has made it to the NFL, it shows, 'Hey, I can be him' or 'I can do better. ... I can be the next up.'"

Ochi hopes to be the next Tye. He's a relentless edge rusher who validated a terrific career (24 sacks in his junior and senior years at the FCS school) by dominating at the East-West Shrine Game in January. As one scout said, "He killed the East-West."

At the scouting combine, his 40 time was only average (4.86 seconds), but he performed well in agility drills. He's a tweener at 6-foot-1, 250 pounds, so his goal at pro day was to show scouts he can move like a linebacker and play in space.

"I'm approaching this like a game," he said in a quiet moment before the testing started. "The scouts are the crowd, and I'm on the field. Everything I do, I visualize myself on the field making plays."

Ochi's day began in the Stony Brook weight room, where he was weighed and measured. His 79-inch wingspan impressed scouts. NFL coaches love pass-rushers with long arms. He eliminated any questions about an old shoulder injury by recording 22 reps (a personal best) on the 225-pound bench press.

He trained for a month at EXOS, a state-of-the-art facility in Gulf Breeze, Florida, but he remained close to his New York support group. His strength and speed coaches -- Malik Corbett and Durron Newman, respectively -- attended the pro day, as did his New York-based agents, Alan Herman and Jared Fox.

Ochi's parents were there too, smiling proudly in the back of the weight room. Emmanuel and Queen Ochi raised Victor in Valley Stream, New York, not far from JFK Airport. They wouldn't let him play football until the 10th grade because they were afraid he'd get hurt. He got bigger and faster, and coaches kept calling the house, pleading with the Ochis to let Victor play. Finally, Ochi's parents relented, and they're glad they did.

Now they're all-in. Ochi's dad wore a Tennessee Titans cap at the start of the day; later, he switched to the Seattle Seahawks. Friends joked that he has a hat for all 32 teams.

"He has a chance to make history," Emmanuel said in reference to the prospect of his son becoming the first Stony Brook player drafted into the NFL.

Stony Brook was the only school that offered Ochi a full scholarship, so he stayed on Long Island and became known as a pass-rushing terror. He's a New York story because, as a kid, he rooted for the Giants and tried to emulate their pass-rushers.

"I watched [Michael] Strahan growing up," he said. "I loved watching Osi [Umenyiora] ... Justin Tuck, Fred Robbins. I used to watch the whole defensive line. I remember that one game where they sacked [Donovan] McNabb 12 times -- Osi had six. It was great watching them play and win too, most importantly."

After the bench press, Ochi snacked on a peanut butter power bar and sipped from a gallon of water, which he carried throughout the day. Because Stony Brook doesn't have an indoor football facility, the pro day then moved to the All-Star Arena 15 minutes away.

It was a road show, to be sure. John Quazza, a tight end from upstate Colgate, traveled 300 miles for his NFL shot. He didn't mind going a few more. Scouts representing more than half the NFL franchises got into cars and drove east. When they arrived, they walked past four vending machines and a glass-enclosed room filled with birthday decorations. It was a long way from Ole Miss, Ohio State or Alabama.

Ochi skipped the 40-yard dash, opting to rest on his combine time. He wanted to focus on positional drills, hoping to convince scouts he can make a smooth transition to a 3-4 outside linebacker. He has some work to do, as he appeared a bit stiff and methodical in his pass drops. Clearly, he was more comfortable in pass-rushing drills, in which he hand-punched a blocking pad with such force that the man holding it -- a Philadelphia Eagles scout -- was knocked back a few feet.

What triggered the ferocity? Ochi smiled and said the scout made a comment about his lack of size. It apparently touched a nerve.

"I'll prove a lot of people wrong in the future," he said.

Ochi has already worked out for the Titans and Arizona Cardinals, who dispatched pass-rushing coach Tom Pratt for a private session. The Cards must be interested because they're flying Ochi to Arizona for a pre-draft visit.

ESPN's Kiper said Ochi could be picked as high as the third round. That, according to scouts, is an ambitious forecast. The most likely scenario, they said, is the sixth or seventh. After all, he is an undersized pass-rusher from a small school. On the flip side, his game tape is impressive, and so is his motor; it's always running.

"It's his best attribute," Stony Brook coach Chuck Priore said. "He plays fast all the time."

When the workout was over, Ochi chatted with the Eagles' scout, the guy who almost fell on his rear end. They exchanged cell numbers and shook hands. A New York Jets scout came over and introduced himself. It was the end of a big day, but Ochi sees it as only the beginning.

"I haven't even touched my potential yet," he said. "I have a lot of heart, and I'm a relentless player. There's no blocker that's going to handle me for all four quarters. More than talking about it, I'll show it. If you take a chance on me, you'll be a happy GM."