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Lehigh’s Spadola shows speed and versatility at the NFL Combine
The All-American wide receiver enhanced his draft stock with a strong performance.

Keith Groller
11:54 p.m. EST, March 3, 2013

Those who watched him play at Lehigh, particularly over the past three seasons, knew that Ryan Spadola was something special.

But now the folks who run the 32 NFL franchises know Spadola might be something special as well. 

The Mountain Hawks’ All-American wide receiver put himself on the radar of many teams with a strong showing at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis last weekend, ranking among the top half of the receivers in virtually all tests.

The 6-foot-1, 204-pound Spadola showcased his speed by running a 4.48 in the 40-yard dash, ranking 15th among receivers in Indy.

He was also tied for 10th among receivers with 15 225-pound bench press reps and was fifth best in the three-cone drill with a time of 6.72.

Spadola said the whole process was grueling and sometimes the tests are conducted when players are worn down.

However, he persevered and was pleased.

“My numbers were pretty solid,” he said. “I finished in the first half of the group of all receivers and in the top-five in some categories. The overall performance went well, but there are some things I want to work on and finetune for the Pro Day.”

Lehigh is conducting a Pro Day on March 12, and that’s when many NFL scouts and reps figure to converge on the Goodman Campus to get a more focused look at Spadola.

He’s done plenty to merit attention after a career in which he caught 232 passes for 3,611 yards and 24 TDs.

His best year was his junior season when he caught 96 passes for 1,614 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Last fall as a senior, Spadola missed two full games because of mononucleosis and was at less than 100 percent in several others. Yet, he still managed 52 catches for 851 yards.

Ed Wasielewski, Spadola’s Philadelphia-based agent, said he gets asked all the time about why Spadola’s production was down last year.

“I think it’s kind of a silly question,” Wasielewski said. “Everyone knows first of all that [record-breaking quarterback] Chris Lum graduated and him and Ryan had a great rapport. But when you lose to 15 to 20 pounds in weight, like what happened with Ryan because of the mono, that’s going to take a big toll on a player. That takes away your playing strength.”

His performance at the combine, coming on the heels of a strong week of practice in late January and early Feb. at the Texas vs. The Nation College All-Star Game have quelled many concerns.

“I think it was at that all-star game where people took a good look at me coming out of a small school and realized that I could compete and play with these guys,” Spadola, a Howell, N.J., product, said. “That was my first opportunity to show that. They were watching how I would do against I-A corners and how I matched up against big-name guys and I performed well there.

“So I went to Indianapolis confident. I didn’t get caught up in being surrounded by big-name players. I just had to go out and do my thing on the field. I think I went out and out-performed a lot of people.”

Spadola, who has been receiving a lot of advice from former teammate and offensive lineman Will Rackley, who was drafted by Jacksonville in the third round of the 2011 draft, left Lehigh and has been working out at Brandon Marshall‘s Fit Speed Athletic Performance in Weston, Fla., since Jan. 5.

These four months leading into the April 25-27 NFL Draft have been intense, but he understands the importance of putting in all the work.

“This is something I’ve forever dreamed of, and now it’s finally here,” he said. “It’s intense and there’s a lot of pressure, but at the same time I am trying to enjoy it all and take it all in. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. There’s thousands of guys across the country who would love to be in my shoes. I’m just trying to embrace and maintain the mind-set of not being satisfied.

“I know I have a lot of work to do to get to where I want. So, I am taking it day-by-day and trying to stay even-keel about everything. That’s the way I’ve always been.”

Wasielewski said eyebrows were raised by his time in the 40.

“A lot of people had him targeted as a 4.6 guy,” he said. “Anytime you got a guy who’s 6-foot-1 or -foot-2, they don’t think he’s going to run well, but Ryan ran very well for a guy his size. When I was talking to scouts, they were asking about that. There’s definitely a buzz about Ryan. I talked to 12 teams in the past week. Right now, we’re just giving them background information.”

Besides his speed, Spadola has also showcased his versatility, proving he can play in the slot as well as outside.

“The way our offense was designed under [offensive coordinator] Dave Cecchini, Lehigh really did a good job of moving me around so teams couldn’t bracket coverage on me,” Spadola said. “I feel comfortable anywhere on the field.”