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April 28, 2011Prior to the start of the 2011 NFL Draft, BearTerritory was able to get a few minutes with former California tailback, Shane Vereen. Vereen, who gained 1,167 yards with a 5.1 yards per carry average last season, will be waiting anxiously this weekend to find out where he'll head to play professionally next season.
Despite his numbers, and the fact that he accounted for 34.3 percent of the Bears' offense last season, the early-entry tailback has flown under the NFL draft-nik radar.
Considering his combine numbers and having similar athletic traits to former teammate and first-round pick Jahvid Best, it's a little surprising that Vereen's status hasn't been elevated. That just adds fuel to the fire for the former Golden Bear.
"I take mental notes of all that stuff," Vereen said by phone on Thursday afternoon. "I don't take too much out of it. It's just people saying it, but who's to say that they know everything that they're talking about?"
"But you can get that no matter what in this stage of the game," continued the tailback calmly. "I was getting that in high school, got it through college, it is what it is. It's a part of the game now, and I take it as it goes with a chip on my shoulder."
Vereen -- who has been told to expect his name called anywhere from the start of the second round to the end of the third -- has reason to feel overlooked, but his humility and self control prevents him from making much of it.
Asked if 31 teams will definitely have a problem with him due to not drafting him, Vereen simply laughed as if he just heard a good joke for the first time. "31 passed up? Yeah."
Unlike teammate Cameron Jordan, Vereen will spend the lead-up to his selection at home with immediate family. He'll begin the draft watching from the family couch, "but if it gets to be too much, I'll probably leave the house," said Vereen.
That should answer any question as to how big the draft is for Vereen. Excited? Nervous? You bet.
"I'm everything all in one," said Cal's third all-time rushing touchdown maker of what he's feeling going into the weekend.
"I'm nervous," continued Vereen. "I'm very excited. It's just a great experience and I'm extremely blessed to be going through it."
The NFL Draft is a three-day process which begins with a prime-time showing of the first round (Thursday). The second and third rounds are done on day two, with rounds three through seven being held on the final day, Saturday.
If Vereen drops below the second round of the draft, the team who selects him will get a lot of value for their pick. Oddly, Vereen's only workout with a team was San Francisco's Bay Area workout held two weeks ago.
Not getting a private workout with a team means one of two things -- either nobody is very interested, or the teams that are interested are just holding their cards close to the vest.
When asked what he thought was going on, Vereen laughed, "I don't know. You'd have to ask them."
Working out for only the 49ers may turn out to be ideal for the future rookie. Growing up as a kid, he'd spend Sundays cheering on the red and gold. If selected by San Francisco, he'll also get a chance to play for former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh.
"I think his record and what he's shown at Stanford and before Stanford, at San Diego, speaks for itself," said Vereen of Harbaugh. "He's a good coach. He's fun. You can tell that he's real passionate about the game, which is really something that a player likes."
While going to San Francisco would be a childhood dream come true, Vereen will be happy with whoever takes a chance on him.
"At this stage of the game, I just want to play football," said the tailback of his future. "I just always wanted to play in the NFL for so long and any opportunity to play for any team will be a dream come true."
He's just hours away from realizing that dream now. He'll likely be very happy when the entire process has completed, and he is making plans to visit his new home, but the humble tailback admitted that he knows how fortunate he is to have gone through the entire draft process.
"It's definitely, it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, obviously," said Vereen of the long process it takes to get drafted in the NFL. "But it's been fun. Just the experiences that I've gone through, those have only been things that I've dreamed of doing, the things that I've seen from afar, being too young. But now that the opportunity is here, it's kind of crazy how everything has been going."
It's also kind of crazy that he has to wait two or more days into the draft to find out which team wants him. Bear Backers know it, Vereen knows it, and soon 31 NFL teams will know it too.