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Published: Wednesday, 4/27/2011

Webb still hopes to hear name called

Michigan tight end was seldom used

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Martell Webb Martell Webb
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ANN ARBOR -- Martell Webb will wake up Saturday morning at his mother's house in Pontiac, Mich., which could be viewed as good luck as he prepares for one of the most important days in his 21-year existence.

To many, Webb was nothing more than a scant contributor for Michigan the past four seasons, a tight end who split playing time in an offense that did little to showcase his abilities. Had Webb been absent for one of his team's games, only those with a watchful eye would have noticed.

But not long ago, Webb was a high school All-American and among the country's top wide receiver recruits in 2007 coming out of Northern High School. Webb had loads of potential heading into his college career, and in his opinion, he didn't get the chance to justify the praise.

The first round of the NFL Draft is Thursday, and Webb won't be selected. Ditto for rounds two and three on Friday. On Saturday, though, there's a chance one of 32 NFL teams will decide to take a chance on a player who caught just nine passes in four nondescript seasons with the Wolverines.

"I'm just blessed, actually, to be in this situation coming from not getting the productivity I wanted," Webb said Turesday in a phone conversation. "I'm just blessed right now."

Webb believes he put on a good showing for the five teams that hosted him recently for private workouts. In addition to the interest received from Detroit, Cleveland, Arizona, Cincinnati, and Philadelphia, Webb visited the New York Jets but did not work out while there.

Most draft prognosticators do not foresee Webb being picked. But if the NFL Draft is anything, it's unpredictable, and Webb can look at Stevie Brown, his former college teammate, for inspiration.

The Oakland Raiders used their seventh round pick in last year's draft on the linebacker Brown, whom many draft gurus didn't figure to be taken.

Webb admits he was "caught off guard" by a recent report from Sports Illustrated calling him one of the top sleeper picks among tight ends in the draft.

If Webb (6-3, 276) is not taken, he may not even have the opportunity to sign with a team as an undrafted free agent -- at least not right away. Typically, those deals begin going down seconds after the completion of the draft, but that may not be the case this weekend. Due to the league's expired collective bargaining agreement, teams will not be permitted to sign undrafted free agents Saturday evening unless a deal is finalized before then. That means 300-400 players will go to bed Saturday night experiencing the dual frustration of not having been drafted and not being afforded a secondary option to make an NFL roster. Webb hopes he's not in that boat.

"I believe it's important to get drafted, just because that's what a person's goal is -- to get drafted," he said. "You just want to see your name go across the [TV] screen, to hear your name."

Webb has been working out under the guidance of Michigan's new strength and conditioning staff, along with other Wolverines who played their final college game in January's Gator Bowl, guys like James Rogers, Renaldo Sagesse, and Adam Patterson. Guard Stephen Schilling and linebacker Jonas Mouton are Michigan's best bets to get drafted, with Schilling projected to be taken in the middle rounds.

Webb, who never redshirted, admits there's a part of him that wishes he had a year or two of eligibility left. That would enable him to play in a pro-style offense, similar to the one he signed up for under former coach Lloyd Carr.

Spending his final three seasons in coach Rich Rodriguez's spread system, Webb and other tight ends like Kevin Koger, didn't get many chances. It wasn't personal to them but a function of what the offense entailed.

"It didn't show what we can do at the next level," Webb said. "It hurt our productivity."

Webb said he decided against transferring to a program more conducive to his strengths for several reasons. He was happy at Michigan, he wanted to continue toward earning a degree from the academically rich university (he's a few credit hours shy) and because he felt good about his NFL chances.

"It's working out so far," he said.

Contact Ryan Autullo at: rautullo@theblade.com or 419-724-6160.



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