Rashaan Salaam teaches athletes the value of hard work at Cedaredge combine
When Rashaan Salaam won the Heisman Trophy at the University of Colorado in 1994, he did so in front of more than 50,000 people during home games at Folsom Field.
In 1995, when he became the youngest in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards, more than 60,000 people piled into Soldier Field to see him play for the Bears.
But Thursday, Salaam got back to his roots, helping host a football scouting combine at Cedaredge High School through the Denver-based company Stat Performance.
Salaam’s football career started at La Jolla Country Day School, a small private school with an eight-man football program in San Diego.
“I like coming back to these small schools because they’re a lot more receptive,” Salaam said. “There aren’t as many distractions here, and these kids are focused on football.”
The message he’s trying to send?
“Do as I say, not as I do.”
Salaam had a short, but successful, NFL career that was cut short by a string of injuries and off-the-field issues.
He attributed his troubles to a lack of work ethic and hanging out with the wrong crowd.
That’s what he told roughly two dozen high school football players from Cedaredge, Paonia, Olathe and Delta as they gathered in the Cedaredge High School weight room after the combine.
“Being a teenager, it’s one of the most important times of your life,” Salaam said. “You want to be on the right path. You want to be working hard in the classroom, working hard in the weight room, and not being dragged down by your boys.”
The other key component to success, Salaam said, is setting goals and believing they’re achievable.
He also warned against drug and alcohol use at a young age.
“I mean alcohol, weed, sex, there’s definitely a pull with all of those,” Salaam said. “But now’s not really the time for that. It takes these guys away from achieving their goals.”
After a 10-minute speech, Salaam signed autographs and took pictures with players.
But that came after the combine, where Salaam and the other staffers from Stat Performance measured and coached players through drills.
The founder of Stat Performance, Francisco Lujan, played football at Colorado Mesa University with Cedaredge football coach Brandon Milholland.
Lujan called Milholland to set up the combine, which Milholland said would provide a great opportunity for football players on the Western Slope.
“I know (Grand Junction High School football coach) Robbie (Owens) puts on a combine during the summer at Mesa,” Milholland said. “But I think it’s a great opportunity for these kids, something comparable to the Front Range. If they’re measured twice, hopefully there’s improvement between the two times.”
The combine gathered each player’s height and weight; times for the 40-yard dash, cone drill and shuttle run; distances in the long and vertical jump; and number of reps in the bench press at either 185 or 135 pounds, depending on the player’s size.
Players wore electronic wrist bands that automatically gathered and stored the information.
Milholland said he plans to host the combine again next year.
“Sometimes things that start small really grow,” Milholland said. “I think the word will get out. And, I mean, how often does a Heisman winner come to Cedaredge? But if (Salaam) is here next year or not, this is a great opportunity for players.
“The kids here, this is a memory they’ll have for the rest of their lives.”