Rhody stars eyeing NFL Draft

When a football player from the University of Rhode Island is fortunate enough to earn an invitation to the NFL Combine, it’s reason to celebrate.

When the player breaks down that door of opportunity and forces some big-time eyes to take notice, it’s a potentially life-altering development.

That’s what Isaiah Coulter did last month in Indianapolis. After flashing the length, athleticism and speed on par with the guys who strut their stuff at LSU, Texas, USC and other big-name schools, the Rams wide receiver is now on the radar of all 32 NFL teams.

“He’s a guy we’re gonna be asking about a year from now — ‘Where’d he come from? Why’d we miss on him?’ ” former Dallas Cowboy personnel guru Gil Brandt told NBC Sports’ Peter King.

Brandt wasn’t alone. After catching 72 passes and scoring eight touchdowns last fall as a junior, Coulter said he had heard enough buzz about his abilities that he was willing to roll the dice and leave Kingston with a season of eligibility remaining. He fortunately received an invite to the Combine and promptly sent scouts scurrying for their notes when he ripped off a 4.45-second time in the 40-yard dash. That was the 10th-fastest time of any receiver, tying All-American Jerry Jeudy of Alabama.

“After the season, I talked to my parents and prayed a lot and just wanted to make the jump,” Coulter said this week from his home in Columbia, Md. “It was always a risk but I believed in myself and talked to people with my best interests at heart.”

Running fast is one thing but Coulter also possesses excellent receiver size at 6 feet 2 inches and 198 pounds. He also posted a 36-inch vertical jump.

“The combine was everything I dreamed of,” he said. “You’re interacting with the legends, Michael Irvin, Cris Carter. They just told us to enjoy the process and take full advantage of the opportunity.”

One coach not surprised at all by the reports out of Indianapolis was Jim Fleming. The URI head coach gave Coulter a scholarship three years ago in large part on the recommendation from his cousin, Rams receiver Aaron Parker. Parker enjoyed a record-breaking career at URI and joined Coulter at the Combine. Fleming sees a chance that both Maryland natives, as well as lineman Kyle Murphy of Attleboro, could become Rhody’s first NFL draftee since center Bob White went to the Jets in 1986.

“Isaiah has top-end physical capabilities and he’s a young kid with incredible upside,” Fleming said. “He will get a long look, for sure. I also think Parker and Murphy will get a shot. I’m really hopeful for all three of them.”

Parker and Murphy were the biggest stars on Rhody’s last few teams. Both earned multiple All-America honors as seniors and Parker finished fourth in the country in receiving yards and averaged 15.1 yards per catch. Parker finished his URI career with 30 TD catches, third-best in school history.

“It was a dream to be in that situation at the Combine,” Parker said. “I met with a lot of teams at the East-West Shrine Game and then 25, 26 teams at the Combine. They want to know about your family, where you came from, things like that. I’ve only played receiver for 3½ half years; they didn’t really know that about me.”

A strong Combine is important but usually only the start of an intensive investigation into draft prospects. But this year is very different. Due to the coronavirus pandemic and social-distancing orders, Pro Days and other workouts are nonexistent. The NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, sent a memo to all 32 teams directing the closure of all club facilities through April 7, with limited exceptions. Scouts and coaching staffs are left to scour film from their home offices and contact prospects via FaceTime and other methods.

Coulter says he’s had several FaceTime conversations with teams and the draft will take place — without fans — April 23-25.

So, will Coulter, Parker or Murphy be drafted? That’s unclear right now but Fleming says scouts are clearly watching film of Rhody’s games.

“My personal opinion is I’m as good as any receiver in the draft class,” Parker said. “It doesn’t matter if I get drafted in the first or the seventh round. I just want my foot in the door.”

Coulter isn’t as brash as his cousin. He’s just confident that if the scouts’ last in-person evaluation of his skills ends up being the big splash in Indianapolis, he has put his best foot forward.

“I feel like I did enough and my best football is in front of me,” Coulter said. “I feel like I showed I could play at the next level, so now I’m just looking for that chance.”

kmcnamar@providencejournal.com

(401) 277-7345

On Twitter: @KevinMcNamara33

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