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2017 NFL combine invites: 7 Washington state natives invited to Indianapolis

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Eastern Washington v Washington State Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images

Three truths of Pete Carroll:

  • Always Compete
  • There’s never enough gum
  • Sign at least one undrafted free agent wide receiver out of the University of Washington every year

Unfortunately this year Carroll may have to settle for Michael Rector out of Stanford, since Washington may not have a true receiver available after the draft. At least that way they can still tab players who are from the state of Washington.

Rector is one of seven Washington-born players who has been invited to the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine with a chance to boost his draft stock in front of pro scouts. There’s also a handful of players who weren’t born in Washington who migrated there for college who will be at the combine.

Michael Rector, WR, Stanford — Gig Harbor

Since I already mentioned him, let’s start there. Rector is 6’1, 189 lbs, and though he wasn’t very productive (367 yards as a senior), he didn’t have the luxury of playing with the likes of Andrew Luck or anything close to it at Stanford. Rector was born in Gig Harbor and played at Bellarmine, where he was a three-star recruit. He spent his summers at Stanford doing things like stem cell research with teammate Josh Garnett, a first round pick by the 49ers last year. Rector probably goes undrafted, but that didn’t hurt former Cardinal receiver Doug Baldwin.

Sefo Liufau, QB, Colorado — Tacoma

A four-year starter for the Buffs, Liufau goes into the draft on a high having lead them to a top-10 ranking before losses to Washington in the Pac-12 Championship and Oklahoma State in the Alamo Bowl. Liufau was born in Tacoma and became a star at Bellarmine Prep, which made him a pretty good get for Colorado (his military father had been stationed in Colorado Springs at some point) where he became the all-time leading passer. He doesn’t have exceptional passing statistics, but he has a strong arm and knows how to run the zone-read option, which could make him an undrafted free agent target for Seattle. That is if the Browns don’t take him first overall, since they did interview him at the Senior Bowl.

Austin Rehkow, P, Idaho — Veradale

Rehkow was a punter and placekicker at Idaho, but is listed as just a punter on the combine callsheet. Not that he wasn’t a good kicker, connecting on 49 of 56 attempts over the last two seasons and once making a 67-yarder at Central Valley High School. He also booted 106 punts during the last two years, with an average around 43 yards per boot. He’s a fascinating special teams prospect and is likely headed to full-time punting duties because he didn’t make many long field goal attempts during career, but he’s potentially going to get drafted. His current dedication to playing football is making plays for his 11-year-old brother Cameron, who is fighting leukemia.

Daeshon Hall, DE, Texas A&M — Seattle

Hall was born in Seattle in 1995 and actually started out as a freshman basketball player at Garfield, but his mom moved them to Lancaster, Texas where she encouraged him to try football instead. Maybe he had a future as a basketball player but he’s boosted his stock to a day two prospect in the NFL draft and he fits Pete Carroll’s top requirement of ... playing for the Aggies. His NFL draft profile page lists him with exceptional 34 5/8” arms, plus praise for him being a quick riser leading up to the draft following a huge showing at the Senior Bowl:

"Daeshon Hall is a name that is going to get hot. I didn't think he had starting potential when he was an outside 'backer. Now that he's bigger and stronger and playing with his hand down, I think he's a different player. I see him as a second-day (Rounds 2-3) guy." -- AFC scout

There’s some potential there for the Seahawks, depending on his combine results. He had 27.5 tackles for a loss and 10.5 sacks over his junior and senior seasons combined, though he had the benefit of playing alongside Myles Garrett, the consensus number one player in this draft.

Zach Banner, OT, USC — Tacoma

A four-star recruit out of Lakes, Banner was the number two player in the state in 2012. (Number one? The aforementioned Garnett.) The 6’8, 305 lb recruit had offers from every relevant college program in the country and he chose USC, where he helped guide them back to relevance with a number three finish in the rankings last season. But his weight ballooned up to as much as 385 pounds and teams will fear that he can’t move quickly enough at guard to make his blocks or at tackle to protect the quarterback. That’s where a strong showing at the combine will go a long way to solidifying his placement in this draft. There are about 35 reasons to expect Banner to be mocked to Seattle in a number of seven-round mocks, with Tacoma, USC, plays offensive line, and massive size among them.

Budda Baker, S, Washington — Bellevue

Budda, whose given name is Bishard, was the top recruit in the state of Washington just three years ago and now he’s looking like a lock for the first round. He has an opportunity to be one of the fastest players at the combine and comparisons to Earl Thomas are on their way, though Lance Zierlein invoked the name “Bob Sanders.” Baker will undoubtedly be more than a few peoples favorite player in this entire draft and if he falls to the Seahawks at 26, there’s surely a chance they don’t hesitate to pick him.

Cooper Kupp, WR, Eastern Washington — Yakima

Before writing off Kupp as an undersized “scrappy, grit, heart of a champion” type player because of his appearance and small school resume, take note that he is 6’2 and 208 lbs. He’s even got bloodlines; his grandfather Jake Kupp was an All-American at Washington and a Pro Bowl guard in the NFL and his father Craig Kupp was a fifth round pick at quarterback in 1990. Cooper averaged 26.1 yards per catch as a junior at Davis HS and had 60 catches, 1,059 yards, and 18 touchdowns as a senior, but no colleges seemed to care. He had grown during his high school career from 5’4 to 6’1 but he was very thin and played at a school with little visibility.

That “being overlooked” thing, which more than a few Seahawks can relate to, is also probably a huge reason Kupp became one of the greatest players in FCS history and arguably college football as a whole.

After a redshirt season (in which coaches were severely torn on whether or not it was a good idea to bench the true freshman despite already having three legit receivers) Kupp played four years at EWU and he never had less than 1,400 yards in any of them. He caught 93 passes as a freshman and hauled in successively more in each season, with 104, 114, and 117 catches respectively. It would’ve been more difficult for him to do that with touchdowns, since he caught 21 as a freshman, but he never had less than 16.

Kupp, a four-time FCS All-American and three-time Academic All-American who wants to develop an algorithm for successively predicting college success based on many recruiting variables (he’s already developed it but wants to tweak it and really move forward in that field once his pro career is over), finished his career with the FCS records for catches, yards, touchdowns, and yards per game. He played four games against Pac-12 schools, totaling 40 catches, 716 yards, and 11 touchdowns; Kupp, not an Oregon Ducks player, holds the Autzen Stadium record for receiving yards in a single game with 246.

He will be one of the most fascinating prospects to watch in terms of draft stock. Coaches will fall in love with his effort, production, and I don’t think they’d come across a single coach in his past who wouldn’t tell them to take him in the first round. GMs will fear “Eastern Washington” and suspect the numbers won’t translate. I’m going to say he’s the real deal but I admit it’s complicated. His combine could be the difference. I recommend this well-written article on Kupp’s history from which I mined a lot of these facts.

Players at Washington schools who weren’t born in Washington:

  • Shalom Luani, S, Washington State, born in American Samoa
  • Kendrick Bourne, WR, Eastern Washington, born in Portland, OR
  • Sidney Jones, CB, Washington, born in Diamond Bar, CA
  • Elijah Qualls, DT, Washington, born in Petaluma, CA
  • John Ross, WR, Washington, born in Long Beach, CA
  • Darrell Daniels, TE, Washington, born in Pittsburg, CA
  • Kevin King, CB, Washington, born in Oakland, CA
  • JoJo Mathis, OLB, Washington, born in Ontario, CA
  • Gabe Marks, WR, Washington State, born in Venice, CA