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May 18, 2012

The pro path

Life as an undrafted free agent can be filled with anxiety.

It also can be exhilarating, experiencing new places and striving to meet new challenges.

Former Boilermakers Albert Evans and Joe Holland know a lot about both.

After hectic hours post-NFL draft, they were among several former Boilermakers who landed spots in rookie mini-camps - Evans in Miami and Holland in San Francisco. But it's the next step that could define their pro careers.

After spending four days in Miami working with the Dolphins earlier this month, Evans is back in West Lafayette, working out and waiting for a call to see where to go next. Holland, though, started Organized Team Activities (OTAs) with the 49ers this week after wrapping up rookie mini-camp. Only rookies under contract or ones invited participate in OTAs.

Draft picks Dennis Kelly and Nick Mondek - who have signed four-year contracts- are in Philadelphia and Houston for OTAs. Besides Holland, fellow free agents Carson Wiggs (Seattle) and Jared Crank (Arizona) have joined veterans for OTAs.

Evans, Gerald Gooden and Justin Siller were among former Boilermakers who had tryouts at rookie camps but are left waiting to find out what's next.

"It's frustrating," said Evans, who hadn't signed a contract with the Dolphins. "I'm right back in the same position, just waiting around. Waiting on a phone call. So you don't know if you're going to head back to Miami or I'm going to be heading somewhere else. It's very business like."

But there's no question the rookie camp was beneficial.

No veterans were around, so that allowed the rookies to get all the attention, spending long days in meetings, conditioning and lifting weights, in practice sessions and studying the playbook.

Evans and Holland said they thought they performed well in the rookie-only camps.

Holland is making the transition to playing in a 3-4 defense from Purdue's 4-3 look and said he picked up concepts well. Evans, aided by the presence of his former Purdue secondary coach and current Dolphins DB coach Lou Anarumo, also said he grasped the system quickly.

"It was really nice," Holland said. "I think that's probably the best way to do it just because they really have to slow it down for us. These vets are the best in the world at what they do and they can't really expect us to just right in and be going at the same intensity, the same speed as they go. So it was a good three days, kind of a crash course into what the life of an NFL player is like.

"They pushed us a little bit to see who's been working out and gave us basically the basics, the first eight to 10 installments of their offense and defense so when the vets did come, we weren't incredibly behind. So it was a good weekend. They were very long days and busy, but it was really exciting and a lot of fun."

Players stayed in a hotel and had fellow rookies as roommates. But there wasn't time for much else besides football. Despite having never been to Florida or California, neither Evans nor Holland got to see the sights during the four-day rookie camp.

Holland still has plenty of time - he'll be in San Francisco through June and has weekends off from OTAs.

Evans is waiting for another chance.

"My agent is following up with Miami and seeing what they're going to do," he said. "Right now, we're looking forward to getting into OTAs (later) or camp at the end of the summer, which is really where you end up making the team.

"(Being in rookie camp) was pretty cool. It's something I can check off my list. … In the long run, you want to make it and be completely there (on a roster). But to be one from the millions of high school players to the thousands of college players to the 340 who make it to (rookie) camp was pretty exciting."




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