Former Ferris State quarterback Jason Vander Laan is trying to make the New York Jets roster as a tight end. The 23-year-old is a two-time Harlon Hill winner, the equivalent of the Heisman award but for Division II.
The New York Times' Ben Shpigel profiled Vander Laan as he hopes to make an NFL roster:
Until recently, Vander Laan, 23, had never blocked before, which is a rather critical facet of the job. Actually, there was this one time, on a reverse sweep in college, when he homed in on a defensive end, but the play was blown dead, so he does not count it.
But based on his frame - 6 feet 4 inches and 246 pounds, about 10 more than his playing weight in college - and his disposition, the Jets figured he would be eager to learn. Before signing him as an undrafted free agent in May, they assessed his strengths as a quarterback - strong instincts, keen spatial understanding, familiarity with offensive concepts and defensive coverages - and divined that perhaps he could evolve into an N.F.L. player, if he were willing to adapt. He was.
At first, the change disoriented him. It was odd, he said, putting on a white jersey instead of the red no-contact pinnie worn at practice by quarterbacks. And when a nice touchdown pass is tossed, a paroxysm of envy grips him. He satisfied that urge after practice Saturday when the throwing machine malfunctioned and he volunteered to whip spirals to an unsuspecting Quincy Enunwa.
He said it was possible to achieve a comparable sensation, laced with glory and adrenaline, at tight end - a crushing block, a sweet catch. He also wants to. Really wants to.
Read more about Vander Laan in the New York Times and in his BGA scouting report.