Cole Toner is familiar with Lucas Oil Stadium, having been part of two regular-season games there as a Roncalli High School football player.
This time the 6-foot-6, 303-pound offensive lineman is playing for his future.
Later this month, Toner, a Harvard University senior, will come to the stadium as one of the estimated 335 college players invited to participate in the annual NFL Scouting Combine.
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Scouts, general managers, head coaches and doctors from all 32 NFL franchises will attend in an attempt to find the players who best fit their team’s most pressing needs.
Rated the 14th-best offensive lineman available by nfldraftscout.com, Toner currently is projected by the website to be selected in Round 5 of the 2016 NFL Draft scheduled for April 28 through 30.
An impressive showing at the combine could make it so that Toner’s name is called even earlier.
A First Team All-Ivy League selection this past season, Toner is taking the same mindset he used prior to competing in the Senior Bowl on Jan. 30 in Mobile, Alabama, in that such exposure was earned through years of hard work.
If anything, the Senior Bowl demonstrated to Toner what he had already believed — that he is a bonafide NFL prospect capable of earning a good living at the next level.
“The Senior Bowl was an incredible experience. What an environment. All the players there were awesome, and I think I performed well,” said Toner, who practiced at three positions (right tackle, left tackle and right guard) prior to the game but played only right tackle in his team’s 27-16 loss.
“I went into it with the mindset of, ‘I deserve to be here.’ It was pretty cool to match up against players you would see on TV.”
Toner and Harvard tight end Ben Braunecker are the fourth and fifth players in Crimson football history to be invited to the NFL Combine. It’s also the first time two players from the same Ivy League school have been invited the same year.
Since 1989, only 20 Ivy League players have taken part in the scouting showcase. Among them is tight end Nate Lawrie, a 2000 Roncalli alum who played at Yale and was drafted by Tampa Bay in the sixth round of the 2004 NFL Draft.
The combine is an opportunity for a player to display his strength, speed and agility through six measurable drills — 40-yard dash, bench press, vertical jump, broad jump, 3-cone drill and shuttle run.
Toner is preparing for the NFL Combine under the guidance of James Frazier, Harvard’s director of strength and conditioning.
“Right now it’s more focus training in what he’s going to be doing at the combine. You have to prepare him for the drills they’re going to run,” Frazier said. “Cole came here as a 265-pound freshman. In the time he’s been here he got bigger, but at the same time got stronger and faster.”
Able to bench-press as much as 375 pounds and squat 525, Toner presently can bench 225 pounds 21 consecutive times. He would like to get up to 25 or more by the time he’s back inside Lucas Oil Stadium.
A good showing is a win for Toner, who as a Roncalli lineman lost to Cathedral his junior season at Lucas Oil Stadium and defeated Decatur Central in the stadium the next year.
“Getting to come back for this, that’s the coolest part,” Toner said.
NFL COMBINE SCHEDULE
When: Feb. 23-29
Where: Lucas Oil Stadium
Schedule: Feb. 24 — Media interviews for running backs, offensive linemen and special teams. Feb. 25 — Media interviews for quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends. Feb. 26 — Media interviews for defensive linemen and linebackers; on-field workouts for running backs, offensive linemen and special teams. Feb. 27 — Media interviews for defensive backs; on-field workouts for quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends. Feb. 28 — On-field workouts for defensive linemen and linebackers. Feb. 29 — On-field workouts for defensive backs.
Name: Cole Toner
Family: Parents, Dave and Angie; sister, Lisa, 45; brother, Chris, 43
Favorite TV show: “Family Guy”
Favorite food: Cheese fries
Favorite movie: “Ocean’s Eleven”
Favorite athlete: Peyton Manning
Favorite team: Indianapolis Colts