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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Seeking Next Stephen Neal, Jets Bring in Wrestlers



May 15, 2007
By Michael David Smith

Patriots offensive lineman Stephen Neal never played college football. Wrestling was his sport of choice in college, and he won two national championships and a Dan Hodge Award, which is considered the Heisman Trophy of wrestling.



Despite his lack of football experience, the Patriots thought he was an impressive enough athlete that they offered him a contract in 2001, and by 2004 he was starting at guard on the best team in the league.

Jets coach Eric Mangini was an assistant in New England, and the development of Neal must have stuck in his brain because the Jets invited two college wrestlers with no football experience to their minicamp.

Among the 51 rookies attending Jets' minicamp are Cole Konrad and Tommy Rowlands, the two top ranked heavyweight wrestlers in college. Both wrestlers are also considered gold medal contenders for the 2008 Olympics.

Konrad and Rowlands were invited to camp by Mangini, a wrestler in high school, despite the fact that neither has played organized football since 9th grade. And neither was expecting a call to minicamp.

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