Fuehne’s Tavern in Damiansville figures to be a busy place this weekend.
Not that the popular Clinton County gathering spot isn’t busy on any other weekend, but Adam Fuehne — the son of owners Dave and Cid Fuehne — has a chance to be selected in the NFL Draft.
The 6-foot-8, 260-pound tight end from Mater Dei High and Southern Illinois University Carbondale has an opportunity to be a late-round pick.
Fuehne’s Tavern will be the gathering spot for a draft watch party that could last three days given the stretched out nature of the current draft. Round 1 is set for 7 p.m. Thursday in Chicago with Round 2 and 2 at 6 p.m. Friday and Round 4-7 beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday (TV: ESPN and the NFL Network).
Fuehne’s figures to be even more exciting should Adam Fuehne hear his name called in the draft.
“I feel like my stock has gone up,” said Fuehne, who showed off his skills and strength at separate pro days in March at Northwestern and SIUC. “There’s definitely a possibility, it could be sixth round or seventh round. That’s what I want, but if it doesn’t happen I’ll pursue an undrafted free agent deal.
“You just want to go in and get your chance.”
I had a lot of support coming out of Clinton County, a lot of family and friends. The Fuehne Tailgate got pretty well known down here in Carbondale.
SIU Carbondalae tight end Adam Fuehne
If Fuehne makes the NFL, will the now famous Fuehne Tailgate Crew continue its tradition of making it to every game he plays in?
Led by Dave and Cid Fuehne and other family members, the group never missed a game — home or away — while Fuehne was at SIU.
“They went to away games, too,” Adam Fuehne said. “We played up in Fargo, North Dakota three time and they flew up there to see that game. I tell them all the time how much it meant to me and that I appreciated they could make it.
“I had a lot of support coming out of Clinton County, a lot of family and friends. A couple times we had party buses. The Fuehne Tailgate got pretty well known down here in Carbondale.”
Fuehne is one of several former metro-east stars that have an opportunity to be drafted this week. Among the others are Nebraska nose tackle Vincent Valentine (Edwardsville), Eastern Michigan running back Darius Jackson (Sparta) and Akron defensive tackle Rodney Coe (Edwardsville).
Jackson is one of the more interesting stories in the draft. The former Sparta standout wowed NFL teams at the University of Michigan pro day, where he turned in off-the-charts measurables in the 40-yard dash (4.35 seconds; one scout had him timed at 4.28), a 41-inch vertical jump and a broad jump of 11 feet, 1 inch.
Darius Jackson has got an arrow pointing straight up. He’s not on a hockey stick curve, he’s straight up. He risen to the point where he could be one of the top running backs out there.
Agent Harold Lewis on former Sparta running back Darius Jackson
“Since I didn’t get into the combine, going there with all 32 teams there, that was my combine,” Jackson said. “After getting a chance to go out there and showcase my skills in front of every team, the interest really picked up from there. Some of the scouts knew I was going to be there, so some of them knew about me and some didn’t know a whole lot about me.”
After an impressive showing, they do now. Jackson has had visits with 11 NFL teams and he says the Oakland Raiders, New York Jets, Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins all showed the most interest.
“Darius Jackson has got an arrow pointing straight up,” said Harold Lewis, Jackson’s St. Louis-based agent. “He’s not on a hockey stick curve, he’s straight up. He risen to the point where he could be one of the top running backs out there.
“He’s got every tangible and intangible that you look for and he’s the real deal. It’s not a strong class for running backs and he’s got everybody scratching their heads wondering why they didn’t watch this guy some more.”
The strong pro day did not surprise Jackson, who had been training hard at Bommarito Performance in Miami for two months.
“I’ve been hitting those numbers for a while now,” Jackson said. “As long as I went out there and relaxed and just attacked the day like I knew I could, I felt good about it.”
Jackson didn’t play much early in his career at Eastern Michigan. However, he finished strong and ran for 1,089 yards and 14 touchdowns last season and scored a school-record 16 TDs for a team taty won only one game. He also caught 21 passes for 201 yards and two TDs and finished his carer with 1,586 yards rushing and 17 TDs.
Jackson has been fighting an uphill climb to get noticed since arriving at Sparta as a seventh grader with his mother, Sandra Jackson, following his parents’ divorce.
“My journey’s been a little tough, the odds are against me coming from a small town and then going to a mid-major,” Jackson said. “It hasn’t discouraged me at all, the plan’s always been the same. I just stayed focused on what my goals were and how I was going to achieve those goals.”
Jackson played well on not-so-great teams at Sparta, spending a lot of time at quarterback as well as running back, safety and kick returner.
“When you’ve tot 89 people in your graduating class it is tough to get noticed,” Jackson said. “I went to a lot of camps going into my senior year and got my name out there, then I just played. I let my play and film speak for itself and everything worked itself out.”
I’m a really goal-driven person. Once I set my mind to it I don’t know exactly how it will play out, but I know I will achieve it. It’s just a mindset I’ve always had. If you work hard enough, nobody can deny your success.
Jackson signed with Eastern Michigan and his only other offer was from Northern Illinois, though he also took a visit to Minnesota.
Jackson’s best attribute, along with his on-field performance, is a burning desire to succeed.
“I’m a really goal-driven person,” he said. “Once I set my mind to it I don’t know exactly how it will play out, but I know I will achieve it. It’s just a mindset I’ve always had. If you work hard enough, nobody can deny your success.
“It’s all on you. I stayed focused on what I needed to focus on, on the field and in the classroom. I hang around people that want to be great.”
Fuehne hoping for good news
Fuehne, 23, kept growing once he left Mater Dei — he once was 6-6 and 225 pounds — and has worked hard to improve his speed and agility.
“Being at a smaller school, we really worked on getting my highlight film out there and getting as much tape as we possibly couldm” said Fuehne, whose agent is Dave Schuman from New Jersey-based Inspired Athletes. “At the pro day I did really good in those position drills and I think that kind of opened some eyes up.
“I did the same thing at SIU and did even better there. I can move around pretty well for mys size and that helped me out a lot.”
He said Detroit and San Diego, two teams that both brought him in for visits, have showed the most interest.
The 6-foot-4, 329-pound Valentine decided to forego his senior season at Nebraska and declare himself eligible for the NFL Draft. Most draft analysts have him projected to go somewhere in the fifth to seventh round.
Valentine graduated in December and had 10 tackles, three sacks and four tackles for loss as a junior last fall. He is considered one of the top 10 to 12 nose tackle prospects in the draft.
Coe (6-3, 310) is an interesting story as well. He starred primarily at running back at Edwardsville, made a verbal commitment to Iowa while in high school and ended up at Iowa Western junior college.
After helping Iowa Western win a national championship as as defensive lineman, he moved on to play at Iowa State before eventually finishing his career at Akron.
Coe’s size and quickness are a step above many other linemen because of his days as a running back and he compiled 47 tackles, 2.5 sacks and nine tackles for loss at Akron this season.
He is projected anywhere from a draft pick in round six or seven to an undrafted free agent.