Friday, March 25, 2011 | 2:05 a.m.
Tysson Poots has been in this position before.
When he was a senior at Coronado High in 2005-06, Poots had two options for continuing his football career — walking on at UNLV to play in the secondary or taking his lone full-scholarship offer to play wide receiver at Southern Utah, a Football Championship Subdivision school.
Considering the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Poots had a monster high school career (he had more than 2,000 receiving yards) at Coronado, the lack of attention from Division I programs, especially from his hometown UNLV, was frustrating.
He picked Southern Utah, and with a chip on his shoulder for being overlooked, eventually became the school’s top all-time wide receiver and a legitimate professional prospect. Now, roughly a month before the NFL Draft, Poots is finding himself in a similar spot: having to prove he belongs.
Poots is projected as a late-round draft pick, looking for a chance in the NFL to show someone from a smaller school can play on the big stage.
“Everything happens for a reason,” said Poots, who is primarily a slot receiver. “Everything didn’t go my way out of high school, but I made the most out of the situation and I had fun at Southern Utah. It put me on the right path to have a chance to play professional football.”
Poots’ numbers at Southern Utah, regardless of the competition he faced, were downright impressive. He finished his four-year career with 282 receptions for 3,970 yards and 43 touchdowns. In his final three years, he had more than 80 receptions, 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns in each season.
He was one of 26 on the Walter Camp All-American team for small schools and holds every Southern Utah receiving record. In Football Championship Subdivision history, his 285 receptions rank eighth all-time, the 43 career touchdowns are ninth and his 3,960 receiving yards rank 10th.
“Football for him is 365 days a year,” Southern Utah coach Ed Lamb said. “Tysson’s ability really speaks for itself. He works hard at it year-round. I haven’t been here long, but in the time I coached, he’s been the hardest worker.”
Poots has been training with other draft prospects in Long Beach, Calif., in preparation for his pro day. Poots wasn’t invited to the NFL Scouting Combine but will put his skills on display Tuesday during the pro day at the University of Utah.
It will be his chance to answer critics who question his speed, which was also a major concern out of high school. Poots is aiming to run a 4.5 second 40-yard dash.
“They say I’m under the radar and scouts want to see how I perform during my pro day,” Poots said. “I doesn’t matter to me where I go or where I play as long as I get the opportunity.”
Lamb said several NFL teams attended Southern Utah games last fall to scout Poots, who is credited as being an outstanding route runner and someone who aggressively goes after the ball when it is in the air. If he’s not selected, Poots will get a chance in an NFL camp as a free agent.
“Mentally, I want the ball more than the defender,” Poots said. “If the ball is intended for me, I’m going to catch it, or no one will catch it.”
Lamb knows what kind of player one team will get.
“He has an incredibly strong body,” Lamb said. “He has the ability to out-jump guys and use his body to get into position. A high percentage of the time, he makes the catch when the ball is thrown his way.”