- The Washington Times - Monday, May 8, 2006

Seven rounds came, and seven rounds went, but Spencer Havner’s name never was called in the NFL Draft.

Havner was a semifinalist for the Bednarik Award for college football’s top defensive player, the Butkus Award for the top linebacker and the Lombardi Award for the top lineman. He was the third-leading tackler in UCLA history, where he started for four years.

He ran the second-fastest shuttle time for a linebacker at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, and he ran a sizzling 4.55 in the 40 on UCLA’s pro day.

Most draftniks had the 6-foot-3, 237-pound Havner pegged to be chosen in the middle rounds of the draft. He’s smart enough to earn a history degree this month. He had a top agent, David Dunn.

What he didn’t have during the two days of the draft was being picked by a team. Spencer Havner became Spencer Havenot. The celebratory family barbecue in tiny Nevada City, Calif., became a wake.

The Washington Redskins called him moments after the draft, asking him to sign as a free agent. That didn’t ease the pain much.

“It hurt me,” Havner said pointing to his heart. “It still hurts to talk about it. I waited my whole life to get drafted, and now it won’t ever happen. Eight or nine teams called me after the draft. This seemed to be the best fit. They needed linebackers. [Former UCLA defensive lineman] Ryan Boschetti wasn’t drafted, and he made this team [in 2004]. These coaches give people like that a chance.”

Not only do the Redskins have a history of undrafted rookies making good — three of last year’s starters weren’t drafted — but they are short on proven linebackers. Only starters Marcus Washington and Lemar Marshall and second-round pick Rocky McIntosh are sure to make the team, likely leaving four jobs to be won.

Khary Campbell is a special-teamer. Warrick Holdman was underwhelming last year. Chris Clemons is still more potential than production. And veterans Jashon Sykes, Robert McCune and Nick McNeil aren’t much more experienced than the rookies.

“It’s going to be a competitive battle at that position at training camp,” assistant head coach/defense Gregg Williams said. “[Undrafted players] are the kind of guys that makes it easy for me to coach. There was a Ryan Clark that nobody liked who played pretty well for us. There’s a Lemar Marshall. Spencer could be the next one in line.”

Havner, 23, will open training camp behind Washington on the strong side, but he also has played the weak side, where McIntosh, Holdman and Clemons will vie to replace LaVar Arrington. And of course, Havner also will have to earn a job via special teams.

“What makes it for Spencer is how he works with [special teams coach] Danny Smith, not [linebackers coach] Dale Lindsey and not me,” Williams said. “He has to step up and show what he can do on special teams, and then we’ll find a place for him to play.”

That’s fine with Havner, a regular on UCLA’s coverage teams.

“I love playing on those teams,” Havner said. “I pretty much proved for four years that I have the knowledge it takes and the natural ability to make plays. This opportunity means so much to me. I just want to make a name for myself.”

Notes — Mike Espy, a tryout receiver from Mississippi who had some of the camp’s nicest catches, is the son of former Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy. The younger Espy was encouraged that the coaches had him learning two of the three receiver positions. …

Tryout quarterback Darrell Nesbitt, who had a dazzling run Saturday, was switched to receiver yesterday at his request. …

The Redskins expect to sign at least three of the 54 players who came to camp on a tryout basis. …

Safety Sean Taylor’s long-delayed trial on assault and battery charges is scheduled to start today in Miami but is expected to be postponed again.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide