In the football world, the month of April is polarizing. As analysts and fans alike conduct “mock drafts” predicting the landing spots of some of Division I football’s household names, scouts and coaches from professional football teams will do their due diligence on all eligible prospects – even players from the Division III level.
With that in mind, five outgoing seniors from Cal Lutheran have been actively training to fulfil their professional football aspirations – quarterback Adam Friederichsen, running back Chris Beeson and wide receivers Aaron Lacombe, Wendell O’Brien and Richard Caceres.
Given the differences in size and talent, one is more likely to be drafted to an NFL team from a Division I or Division II school as opposed to a Division III school. When 53-man rosters were announced for all 32 teams at the beginning of the 2017 NFL season, there were only seven players who played at the NCAA Division III level. To put it in perspective, Division III players accounted for just 0.04 percent of the 1,696 available roster spots.
“Obviously as D-III guys, we are all long shots and we know that,” said Friederichsen, starting quarterback for the Kingsmen for three years. “But we also know that we have just as much talent as a lot of players in the league.”
For the past three months, Friederichsen, O’Brien and Beeson have been training at Sports Academy in nearby Newbury Park under a program overseen by Nate Borunda and Larry Anguino. Friederichsen was invited to participate in University of California at Los Angeles’s pro day, but eventually rearranged to showcase his arm talent at Fresno State University because of a scheduling conflict with multiple scouts.
“I participated at Fresno State and did very well, so I was invited to participate at Cal’s pro day the very next day,” Friederichsen said.
Between both Fresno State and University of California at Berkeley’s pro days, Friederichsen said that scouts and coaches from all 32 teams have seen him throw the ball. He added that the Los Angeles Rams have been the NFL team that has been most consistent, while representatives from the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Calgary Stampeders, Saskatchewan Roughriders and Montreal Allouettes have been in contact with him as well.
Lacombe spends his draft preparation at Proactive Sports Performance in Westlake Village—the training site of projected first round picks Baker Mayfield, Mike Hughes and Derrius Guice. Lacombe, a two-time First Team All-SCIAC selection in two years at Cal Lutheran, was invited to participate at the University of California at Davis pro day where he said he was impressed with his own results.
“I had a little disadvantage being the only D-III guy there and had to go last in every drill, but I ran a 4.5 in the forty-yard dash and put up other numbers that I was really pleased with,” Lacombe said.
Like Friederichsen and Lacombe, outgoing senior wide receiver O’Brien was also able to participate in a pro day. O’Brien, who earned First Team All-SCIAC honors in 2017, caught passes in front of NFL and CFL scouts at Princeton University’s pro day inside Powers Field in New Jersey.
A third Kingsmen receiver, outgoing senior Richard Caceres, has embarked on a different journey. Caceres stepped away from the sport entirely for a year after receiving zero offers to play college football. Feeling the itch to come back, Caceres decided to continue on with the game he loved at Orange Coast College where he parlayed his success into two more years of football at Cal Lutheran.
“It wasn’t until after my first year of playing junior college football that I actually decided to make it a real goal of mine to make it pro,” Caceres said. “I just made the decision to work as hard as I possibly could to make it happen.”
Caceres, who joined Friederichsen and O’Brien at a CFL tryout in March, has not been training with any facility or trainer. The Irvine native described his performance as “decent”, but said that he viewed this tryout as an opportunity to set a benchmark while keeping his eyes set on graduating this spring.
“My timeline has been basically all school since the spring semester started. Once I get back into training, I will attend numerous CFL tryouts next year and play not this upcoming season, but the season after that,” Caceres said.
Of the five Cal Lutheran players seeking professional football opportunities, just Lacombe and Friederichsen are represented by agents. Lacombe is signed to Ty Barnes of Power Sports, while Friederichsen is represented by Adam Heller of VMG Sports: the same agency that represents Kansas City Chiefs all-pro tight end Travis Kelce.
“Since D-III guys don’t usually get drafted, my agent and I are prepared to field calls from teams immediately after the draft and find a team to go into rookie mini-camp with,” Lacombe said.