Tom Korte will be in Pittsburgh Steelers’ rookie camp this weekend, but that’s a far cry from making the defending world champs, practice squad or otherwise.
The Hillsdale College linebacker is one of the most intelligent, game-changing defensive players I’ve ever witnessed at the D-II level, but his size, and the sheer number of other unsigned rookie linebackers will make his battle to catch on in the NFL a Mt. Everest sized one.
I know it’s easy to peg him as one of the top defensive players in arguably the best D-II conference, but the fact he wasn’t selected as one of 10 linebackers for the Cactus Bowl, the D-II all-star game, earlier this season throws a red flag up in my opinion.
Personally I didn’t think it was fair when I looked at the Cactus Bowl rosters several months ago and compared Korte’s numbers to the linebackers who were selected, because they stood out even among D-II’s best, but I’m no scout, just an informed observer.
If the people in charge of the putting together a collection of D-IIs top talent couldn’t find a reason to bring him down to Texas, that hurts, but not for the reason you might think.
Sure it’s a slap in the face respect wise, but it was also a missed opportunity for Korte to show a whole bunch of scouts what a special player he is. I know plenty of people will probably jump to his defense and say he’s already in a camp, so that point is mute, but the number of people interested in what he has to offer is important because if the Steelers’ job doesn’t work out, more hopeful suitors is what every undrafted free agent wants and needs, and the more eyes that have been fixated on Korte the better.
First off he’s 5’11 ¾, shorter than any of the nine inside linebackers who had their names called during the draft. Even his head coach, Keith Otterbein, said his size could deter some people on Korte’s way toward an NFL dream — and while I don’t understand how huge a difference one inch makes, there’s a reason Chase Daniels is also an undrafted free agent, as well as whole lot of offensive lineman who don’t have the bods that match the numbers.
Secondly, just “Googling” Korte’s name brings up very few results, proof that he hasn’t generated a whole lot of interest from scouting groups and expert blogs, so on so forth. If you do the same thing to Andy Schantz, an ILB from Portland State — who just happens to also be going to Steelers rookie camp, he has been on the NFL radar for almost a year.
On the NFL Draft Bible, Schantz is the 20th rated ILB, 13 spots ahead of Korte, while ESPN.com’s Scouts Inc had Schantz rated the 30th best linebacker, while Korte came in at 48th, but it appears few scouts from those ranks really saw Korte in person.
Adding to the debate about whether or not Korte will ultimately land in Pittsburgh after this weekend, there is an interesting article on Schantz in The Oregonian from today.
It basically says Schantz has already played in a scheme similar to Dick LeBeau’s in Pittsburgh, and it should also be noted that Schantz played for Jerry Glanville, a well-known and high-respected name in coaching circles. Although personally, I think Coach Otterbein’s staff is about as good as it gets top to bottom at this level. And Otter knows best that he and many of his coaches could be wearing headsets at the D-I level, which he did several times, but they are about more than the dollars, they usually choose the sense, a sense of character and meaning in their books.
Anyways, this isn’t about the coaching staff, it’s about one of the most impressive players they’ve helped mold into a fringe NFL talent. Korte has instincts and a work-ethic as good as anyone at any level, which seems on par if not better than Schantz from what I’ve read.
And the reason Schantz is such a big deal is because the Steelers did NOT draft any linebackers this weekend and were quoted in numerous articles prior to this weekend as wanting to shore up the backup spots on their roster.
Last year record-setting Chargers QB Mark Nicolet tried to fight size and the odds at Lions camp, but honestly other than the fact he was in a rookie camp at the NFL level, the similarities between him and Korte are few. The depth chart at LB is much deeper than QB usually, plus Korte has been brought in as a “priority” free agent, which is at least a feather in his cap. Thankfully though Korte can try and gain a little wisdom from Nicolet’s experience of learning what it’s like on the top, all the while drinking as many free Gatorade’s as possible.
As much as I like Korte and love what he brings to the football field I just don’t see him making the Steelers. I do think however he may have another chance to catch on with a practice squad of a team that is a little thinner in the linebacking corps, even if it’s months from now.
Right now I just think it’s a THEM thing, not a HIM thing, if you know what I mean, all of you who have been dumped without any forewarning. I also wish the Lions would have picked up Korte, instead of taking fellow D-II star Sammie Lee of Stillman College in the fourth round. Then again, the Lions couldn’t even figure out it was the only logical choice to take Rey Mallaluga or James Laurinitis with the first pick of the second round.
Whatever the case may be, logically I think Korte is dang near close to being the next John Digorgio, a former Saginaw Valley State LB, who has made a home in Buffalo with the Bills, I just don’t know if the right opportunity is here just yet.