Even without a call on draft day and a hyperventilated seal of approval from Mel Kiper Jr., dreams can come true.
No players from the Sacramento region were picked in last week's NFL draft - a rarity - but upcoming minicamps will include a tailback, a cornerback and a tight end with local ties, all bent on securing roster spots after signing free-agent deals last weekend.
Deonte Williams, who set rushing records at Pleasant Grove High School, Sierra College and Cal Poly, is with the Raiders, his childhood favorite. Not only a fast and durable running back, he's also affable and likes to flash his gold grill when he grins.
Ryan Lacy of Oakmont and Utah is a cover man from the pass-oriented Pacific-12 Conference. He will receive a crash course in summer workouts with Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints.
Ryan Otten of Del Oro set career tight end reception and touchdown records at San Jose State and landed with Jacksonville. He overcame a staph infection from a cut on his finger he suffered in late January at the Senior Bowl. He later feared he'd die. Otten was hospitalized for two days and impressed prospective employers with his willingness to still play in the game.
Williams, Lacy and Otten each endured exhaustive interviews and workouts with scores of personnel but still were not drafted.
The 5-foot-10, 213-pound Williams rushed for 1,506 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, including 188 and three scores in a 28-20 victory over UC Davis. Lacy is just under 5-9, which likely hurt his draft stock, but he's quick. Otten, at 6-6, has size and graded out well in workouts with his hands and feet.
"Just be yourself and compete," Williams said.
Brandon Monroe of Del Oro was presented the Character Combine Student/Athlete of the Year and Jeff Carlson of Elk Grove the Coach of the Year honor on Saturday at Folsom High.
Monroe, The Bee's Football Player of the Year, was acknowledged for his drive to return to action after missing four midseason games with a knee injury. While out, Monroe handed out water bottles and offered advice to his replacements. When he returned, he had spectacular rushing totals to get the Golden Eagles into the playoffs, winning two postseason games. After losing to Elk Grove, Monroe led his teammates to congratulate the Herd. He will attend San Jose State on scholarship.
Carlson was recognized more for his overall coaching success - his baseball season is still in progress. He has more than 300 wins, multiple championships and works with his players to prepare them for the next level. Carlson's was a co-award to honor his wife and inspiration in Caryn, a breast cancer survivor who is now working to regain the use of her legs following a mysterious ailment. She walked a lap last week, with a walker, with husband by her side. Character Combine staffers presented an emotional Caryn with flowers, and she received a standing ovation from a full crowd of 700.
Darrin Paulo of Grant uncorked a school-record discus throw of 169 feet, 6 inches at Saturday's Meet of Champions. What's more remarkable is the 6-5, 305-pound sophomore is still learning, and throws without spinning in the ring. Recovering from two knee surgeries, Paulo has yet to play a down of football for the Pacers. With his agility, size, grades and work ethic, he could be a national recruit, his Pacers coaches say. His track position coach at Grant is Devan Cunningham, a former Pacers star who started four years on the offensive line at Fresno State.