Adam Shaheen, a 2013 Big Walnut High School graduate, is projected to be selected in the second or third round of next week’s NFL Draft.
The former Golden Eagles football (wide receiver and defensive back) and basketball player became a record-setting junior tight end for the Eagles of Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio. He will forgo his senior season of eligibility.
“I’m 22 already, so it’s not like I’m only in my third year of college,” Shaheen said on the university’s web site. “I’ve been in college for four years, and I’ve had two good seasons. I have an opportunity right now. My biggest thing was the door is open, to try to get my foot in and let’s go.”
“Talk about a Cinderella story,” said the NFL’s website. “Shaheen was an all-conference pick in basketball and football in Galena, Ohio, and signed with Division II Pittsburgh-Johnstown to play hoops (5.5 points, 3.1 rebounds per game in 2013-2014). He then transferred to Ashland to play football, which turned out to be the right move.”
As a sophomore in 2015, Shaheen led the NCAA at all levels for tight ends with an AU-record 70 catches for 803 yards and 10 touchdowns.
“I came in as a scrawny 205-pound guy, and I was just trying to get on the field any way I could,” Shaheen said. “I kept developing, and I had a good year two years ago. Even then, I wanted to have another great year.”
As a junior in 2016, Shaheen caught 57 passes for 867 yards and a school-record 16 touchdowns, all tops in Division II football. Ashland finished with a 9-2 record and made the D-II playoffs.
“You can think of a scenario where I stay another year and everything goes perfectly and my draft stock goes up,” Shaheen said. “I have an opportunity right now, and I want to take it. I just kind of sat back and listened to every different opinion and idea and thoughts.”
Among the many honors Shaheen earned were two first-team Academic All-American awards. He also ranks among the school’s leaders in career catches, receiving yards and touchdowns.
“We’ve got to celebrate the fact that he’s had an unbelievable football career here,” said Ashland football coach Lee Owens on the university’s website. “I don’t know how he could have done any more. And the fact that he’s going to get his degree is big. And we’re going to be rooting for him.
“His legacy here is pretty big. We’re proud of the fact that he was here, and look forward to the great things he’s going to do at the next level.”
At the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, Shaheen earned a grade of 5.75 on a 0-10 scale. An athlete with that grade has a “Chance to become an NFL starter.” He ran the 40-yard dash 4.79 seconds, the 60-yard shuttle in 12.38 seconds, the 3-cone drill in 7.09 seconds; had a 121-inch broad jump and 32.5-inch vertical jump; and was a “top performer” with 24 reps in the bench press.
“Big, fast and athletic, Shaheen will immediately interest teams who are looking for size and traits,” said NFL.com. “Enormous frame for a tight end. Powerfully built, well-proportioned frame. Accomplished high school hooper who brings the same footwork to the field. Has good sink into breaks and can make sharp cuts coming out. Has foot quickness for clever stutter-and-go double moves to uncover against linebackers.
“Above average speed and acceleration for his size. Creates leverage points against man coverage before breaking his routes off and pulling away. Moved all over the field. Was isolated for fade routes near end zone. Plus hand-eye coordination and shows ability to alter body positioning to improve catch-odds while ball-tracking. Trusted in pass protection. Sees twists and blitzes and responds to them. Needs work as run blocker, but has desired frame of a Y-tight end.”
When it came to weaknesses, the site expressed concern that Shaheen had “physically overwhelmed a lower level of competition,” meaning Division II college football. One unidentified personnel director said he turned the tape off after watching two games of Shaheen in action, but he “saw some things that has me very excited.”
If ESPN’s mock draft gurus are accurate, Shaheen could be heading west to play in the pros. Mel Kiper Jr. thinks the Denver Broncos will pick him in the second round with the 51st overall pick to get more production out of the position. Todd McShay suggests Shaheen will be picked by the Dallas Cowboys in the second round with the 60th overall pick and be mentored by veteran great Jason Witten.
Other sources have Shaheen going to the Detroit Lions, Seattle Seahawks, or Jacksonville Jaguars (who traded their top tight end).
Shaheen is nominated to be on Big Walnut’s Wall of Fame next fall, said athletic director Brian Shelton in an email.
“I was fortunate to coach Adam in middle school basketball and football,” Shelton wrote. “I knew from the first day of practice, that Adam was hardworking and things came naturally. I remember one day after basketball practice I went to the gym to workout and there was Adam shooting baskets. He just finished a two-hour practice and he was already in another gym working on getting better. What I did not know is that he would grow to be 6-foot-6 and 260 lbs.
“Adam is a great role model for our younger athletes to never give up on your dreams. Most importantly, Adam was simply a great student/athlete, never in any trouble and he was always smiling. His GPA was over 4.0 and he treated everyone the same. Everyone at Big Walnut wishes him the best.”
Eight players from Ashland have played in the NFL, and three were drafted — the earliest was in the seventh round. The Cleveland Browns recently re-signed former Eagle All-American defensive lineman Jamie Meder.
“All college football players aspire to play in the NFL someday, and you want to go where there’s some evidence that that’s possible,” Owens said. “We really believe Adam is going to be drafted as high or higher than any player in the history of our school.”
The 2017 NFL Draft is April 27-29 in Philadelphia. Round 1 is at 8 p.m. April 27, Rounds 2 and 3 at 7 p.m. April 28, and Rounds 4-7 at noon April 29.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak. Information from the Ashland University Athletics Department was used in this story.