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Due diligence

Posted Mar 7, 2014

If you want to get in the Way Back Machine, tell Mr. Peabody to take you back to College Station, Texas in the weeks before the Bengals took Texas A&M tackle Glenn Bujnoch with the 38th pick in 1976 NFL Draft.

That’s where exactly one NFL team worked out Bujnoch before the call came and it just happened to be Bengals offensive line coach Mike McCormack.

The only one.

Now come back seven presidents and step inside the Jetsons’ bubble sitting in the middle of the University of Cincinnati earlier this week and there were no less than 14 NFL teams working out players that no one expects to get selected in the May 8-10 2014 NFL Draft.

Back at College Station these days, Johnny Manziel has 14 scouts watching him brush his teeth. The 38th player chosen this year will undergo everything but an autopsy by virtually all 32 team doctors in some form or another.

Now, some of the Bearcats are going to be represented in a couple of NFL training camps via free agency. And one of them could be Bujnoch’s son, Austen, a prototypical Cincy prep product raised in Western Hills by a West Side Mom and an Aggie Dad who liked the name “Austin,” but not the way it was spelled since it is the home of the arch-rival Longhorns.

J.K. Schaffer, the former Bearcat linebacker who heads into his third NFL season with nine games under his belt as a Bengal, can testify to that as a fellow West Sider who also worked for Glenn and with Austen at the chicken restaurant Booj’s.

“I played with him here and I’ve played against him my whole life,” said Schaffer, who played at LaSalle High School before going to UC. “Back when he was playing for Visitation in grade school and then at Elder. He’s an athletic, tough lineman. It runs in his family. I think he’ll be very successful.”

Austen, a three-year starter at guard for UC, is already working on his Master’s and came into the bubble determined to show the scouts he’s on the way back from playing his senior season at guard on a broken foot and is ready to play a new position.

“It’s a different day. I don’t even have a game film from when I played for the Bengals,” Glenn Bujnoch mused this week. “All the money and all the media has made it so big. But it’s still football.”

And if this is NFL football, then this is due diligence.

UC sent no one to the NFL scouting combine for the first time in years last month, but the Bengals sent two scouts, two coaches, and a video staffer to Clifton this week. The hometown team has to make sure no one slips by.

Greg Seamon, the Bengals’ East Coast scout, is the point man. Seamon, a former Bearcats offensive coordinator, has teamed with the school’s long-time director of football operations, John Widecan, to run the day and makes sure the other 14 or so teams on site get what they need when it comes to heights, weights, vertical jumps, 40-yard dashes, and shuttle runs.

There were some things to jot down. Offensive lineman Sam Longo jacked up the 225-pound bar 47 times in the bench press and if he’d been at the combine that would have made news because it would have been the best this year, which was 42. In history, it is only behind the 51 of Justin Ernest from Eastern Kentucky and the 49 of Stephen Paea from Oregon.

And 250-pound tight end Blake Annen opened eyes when he shot through the 40-yard dash in in 4.41 seconds. Safety Drew Frey, who last played in 2012 and looks to be healthy, quietly long jumped 10 feet, 6 inches, to get into some notebooks.

As a member of the scouting consortium APT, the Bengals have banded with a group of NFL teams to get the most reliable data they can get. This is called crossing the Ts.

When UC holds another pro day on April 2 for the injured players that couldn’t work, the Bengals have already scheduled director of player personnel Duke Tobin to oversee the workout with Seamon set to be at the University of Tennessee that day. That is called dotting the Is.

“I’m on schedule. I’ll be back to full strength April 2.  I’ll be good to go on everything,” Austen Bujnoch said. “I think it’s the right decision. I think it’s going to help me in the long run.”

Bujnoch couldn’t work out this week for the same reason he couldn’t play his final two games as a Bearcat. He had surgery on a foot he broke in the opener and kept playing on it into November until one symptom couldn’t be ignored.

“I couldn’t walk on it,” Austen Bujnoch said. “I had a decision to make when I broke it. Miss the rest of the year and maybe get a (medical) redshirt. But I wanted to go out there with my teammates. I didn’t want to have any regrets. I wanted to stay with them and see if we could win another championship.”

But then when he couldn’t walk he figured the last game ought to be that showdown with Louisville. Quarterback Brendon Kay’s last desperate pass was Bujnoch’s final college snap. When he couldn’t walk out on the field in the Belk Bowl, he kind of felt like he did this week when he couldn’t take the field for the pro day.

“But my teammates told me it was time to start worrying about my future,” he said.

And so he has. Even though he won’t start working out full go until Monday at Ignition Sports under the watchful eye of training guru Clif Marshall, Bujnoch  wanted the scouts to see he’s working on snapping and willing to play any position possible even though he’s never played center in a game.

With a degree already in his pocket and an older brother now retired after playing in a slew of NFL training camps and on practice squads on the offensive line including the Bengals, Austen Bujnoch has got it figured out. His brother, Glenn “Digger,” Bujnoch, now a financial adviser at Cincinnati’s Lincoln Financial, has been free with the advice.

“I think intelligence is just as important as anything else. You have to know what you’re doing first of all,” Austen Bujnoch said. “You have to be that person that can play every position. Give them a reason to keep you.”

Brains and toughness. Bujnoch is Richard Katz’s kind of guy. Katz, the patriarch of Cincinnati-based NFL agents, says before his client got hurt he was on pace to be invited to the Senior Bowl and the combine and be a legitimate late-round pick. Now it’s a two-man effort with Bujnoch getting back on the field and Katz promulgating the results to the 32 teams.  

“He’s still a legit late pick,” Katz said. “I’m trying to make sure everyone is up-to-date on his medical situation.

“His strength is his athleticism. I think at (305 pounds) he’s going to run a sub five.”

That would be less than five seconds in the 40-yard dash. For now, he’s trying to do something quicker than that and that’s pick up the art of snapping.  

He fired a few shotgun and direct snaps at Kay, as well as at the other two quarterbacks at the workout, Tusculum's Bo Cordell and Wittenberg’s Reed Florence.

Cordell, who set the Division II record for career total offense, played his high school ball in Cincinnati at Indian Hill High School. So Bujnoch will see all three again when the Bengals host their Local Day next month for 30 high school and college products within the Greater Cincinnati region that are allowed to work out in Paul Brown Stadium for the club.

Another punctuation mark for due diligence.

Brian Braswell, the Bengals’ new assistant offensive line coach who also serves as the offense’s quality control chief, took note of Bujnoch and approached him to offer a few suggestions. Braswell, 35, who played center and tackle at Hampton University , advised him on some of the fundamentals and went through some of the basic zone blocking steps a center has to take. Call them tips for April 2 and then the Local Day.

 “It’s going to open up doors for him,” Braswell said of center. “He did a decent job (snapping) even though he’s a fish out of water. We just want to make sure he can take those zone steps or deep steps for the outside zone and do it both out of the gun and under center.

“It’s easy to snap it and just stand there,” Braswell said. “You have to be able to step and to move and to do it the right way. I’m sure we’ll be back to see him.”

Austen Bujnoch is a Bengals fan. How could he not? He may have been born in 1991, nine years after his dad last played with the Bengals and seven years after his last NFL snap with the Buccaneers.

But he’s heard the stories of the Spinney Field pranks and how his dad played NFL guard at 245 pounds. His favorite yarn is when his dad told him about the advent of a camera in practice. “The eye in the sky never lies,” Glenn told him. Especially when the camera caught some of the Bengals not going to the ground on the up-downs to open practice and the coaches hauled them in a few hours later with the proof on film.

And Austen used to go to all the golf outings with Glenn, where he met the Munozes and Laphams. Plus, he was just at that right age in early 2006 when Carson Palmer went down in the playoff game.

“I think,” big, tough Austen Bujnoch says, “I might have cried a little bit.”

Glenn Bujnoch is 60 now and it’s been almost 40 years since Paul Brown gazed at him for the first time and said he was taller and lankier than he thought, something else that probably wouldn’t happen today.

On draft day 1976, Bujnoch left his apartment near campus at around 3:30 p.m. He had no idea in what round they were and he just figured he hadn’t been picked yet. There was no way to know since the draft wasn’t broadcast anywhere, so he went to the grocery store. When he got back, there was a message to call the Cincinnati Bengals.

“You better call them right away,’ one of his roommates told him.

If his youngest son is happy, so is he.

“I’m just glad to see him working at something no matter what it is,” Glenn said. “I don’t care if it’s football or a trade or what. I always told him, ‘Don’t do it for me.’ He’s very disciplined in his training and he’s already working on his master’s. You like to see that as a parent.

“I’ve always said if you’ve got the head, the heart, and the body, you have a chance.”

April 2 has been noted. It seems due diligence is a two-way street.

 

 

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