PROVO, Utah -- Harvey Unga is trying to get drafted, a goal he had decided to delay after last season.
But that was before he found himself without a team -- or a school to attend -- when he was dismissed from BYU for allegedly having an inappropriate relationship with his girlfriend. The school prohibits premarital sex, and Unga became a father for the first time over the Fourth of July weekend.
Unga held a workout Thursday to showcase his ability and there was no shortage of interest.
|Harvey Unga's route to the NFL won't be what he expected. (US Presswire)|
Despite facing several nagging injuries during his three-year BYU career, he rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each season. He was slowed by the school's stringent honor code policy, however, which forbids premarital sex, alcohol and tobacco.
He tried to submit his case for appeal to remain in school to BYU officials who handle such cases -- with the backing of head coach Bronco Mendenhall -- but was ultimately turned down and kept from enrolling for one year.
Rather than wait two full years for entry into the NFL, Unga decided to turn pro.
NFL teams don't appear to have any concerns about Unga's character. BYU did know of a few issues coming out of high school -- Unga is from the Provo area -- but that didn't prevent him from earning a scholarship.
Those questions are not an issue for NFL teams either, according to NFLDraftScout analyst Chad Reuter, who was not at the workout but estimated Unga could be a fourth- or fifth-round pick next week.
A team submitted a pick for a player in the supplemental draft must forgo the corresponding-round selection in the following season's draft. The Rams have priority billing in every round because they held the No. 1 overall pick in 2010.
"I've had one guy tell me he could potentially go in the third," Reuter said. "Unga's a solid guy who kind of got a bad deal. I don't think that's going to be a big deal -- why he was dismissed from school. But I think he's going to fit in a system. He's not going to burn, but he's going to run hard and he has better feet than people give him credit for."
Reuter said Unga will have to become a better pass blocker. But he can catch passes out of the backfield.
Unga didn't drop a single pass, thrown at all sorts of angles Wednesday from former BYU quarterback Charlie Peterson.
There were 28 running backs invited to NFL Combine Feb. 24-March 2. Unga, thinking he was still enrolled and in good standing with BYU, opted not to enter the draft. Fourteen running backs were drafted in the 2010 draft, but only one compared to Unga physically -- fullback/tight end John Conner, a 5-11, 246-pounder from Kentucky. It's possible Unga could be drafted as a short-yardage specialist or convert to fullback.
Unga's fiance, Keilani Moeaki, gave birth to the couple's first child -- a son, Jackson, -- on the Fourth of July. Moeaki, who was also dismissed from BYU, is the sister of former Iowa tight end Tony Moeaki.
"I'm not bitter at BYU," Unga said. "I have no hard feelings. I just have to get ready for this next part of my life."
UNGA WORKOUT RESULTS
40 time: 4.63
Bench press: 19 reps of 225 pounds
Vertical: 35 inches
Broad Jump: 10-0
Short shuttle: 4.49
Where will Unga land?
NFLDraftScout Senior Draft Analyst Rob Rang and Draft Analyst Chris Steuber chime in:
Rob Rang, Senior Draft Analyst:
Unga's powerful downhill running and surprising lateral agility make him an ideal candidate for any offense in need of a big back. Unga's soft hands and willingness to block mean that he can contribute on all three downs -- a rarity for rookie backs.
The St. Louis Rams could decide where Unga lands. The Rams boast one of the NFL's best backs in Steven Jackson, though Jackson has a history of injury and depth behind him (Kenneth Darby, Chris Ogbannaya, Keith Toston) is questionable at best.
Multiple NFL teams give Unga a fourth-round grade but felt the BYU back could slip at least a round or two in the July 15 supplemental draft due to the general hesitancy of clubs to give up future draft picks.
Chris Steuber, Draft Analyst:
Not that it's a huge need for the Eagles, but running back is a position in transition with LeSean McCoy taking over the spotlight, featured role from Brian Westbrook. Even though they have a crowded depth chart at the position, which features the likes of Leonard Weaver, Mike Bell and sixth-round pick Charles Scott (LSU), coach Andy Reid could make an exception for a player from his alma mater. The all-time leading rusher in BYU history, Unga has rushed for over 1,000 yards and recorded double-digit touchdowns in each of his three years with the Cougars. If selected by the Eagles, Unga offers strong competition to Scott and could develop into a short-yardage option if injuries occur.