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Chris Skukalek will not wow you at a combine. He does not run in a straight line ordinarily fast. He is not a physical specimen.
But he blocks well, catches passes, has a great motor, plays hard and plays everywhere.
“Chris Skukalek,” says Largo coach Rick Rodriguez, “is a football player.”
That is the highest praise Rodriguez gives, and the Packers senior is hoping it is his ticket into college next fall.
Skukalek, who is 6-foot-1, 225 pounds of strength and versatility, does not have a college offer, but they will come say his coach and father, Dave, who has spoken to more than a dozen colleges such as Duke, Kent State, Richmond and Middle Tennessee State this past spring.
What makes Skukalek unique is it seems every school has a different reason for liking him.
Dave Skukalek said Carson-Newman, one of the better Division II programs with a great tradition, likes him as a tight end, Charleston Southern looked at him as a linebacker, Tennessee-Chattanooga thinks he might be a defensive lineman and Youngstown State and Michigan State, where he will camp next month, think he could be an H-back.
At Largo, he has played them all, and then some.
“I think my versatility helps me,” said Skukalek, an honorable all-county football pick last season and a basketball player as well. “I think schools look and see that I’m athletic and can do a bunch of things.”
In fact, pressed for a favorite position, Skukalek demurs. “I play wherever a team needs me to play.”
Skukalek, who has been a two-way starter since late in his freshman season, is taking the recruiting process in stride.
While admittedly frustrating at times with offers flying all across Tampa Bay this spring, he remains upbeat.
Next week, he’ll camp at Carson-Newman, a school he really likes, and then fly out of Atlanta to Grand Rapids to compete at Michigan State.
He knows most of a players’ offers come from these personal invitations, from being in front of college coaches on their own campuses.
He knows he has to shine.
“I definitely think I can,” he said. “I’m ready.”
One thing Skukalek does well that few do, and colleges don’t necessarily recruit, is long snapping. It is an art that he hopes adds a little something to his football portfolio.
Rodriguez said when he was at Clearwater in the mid-1990s, Purdue came by and was impressed by, and later offered, Chris Daniels, who went on to play for the Boilermakers and was one of the best wide receivers in school history.
But the first thing that jumped out at Purdue was his long snapping, Rodriguez said.
“A long snapper will win a game for you,” the coach said. “Chris is a no-nonsense player. He plays with a lot of intensity and he can do everything well. He’s the total package.”
Skukalek had an outstanding spring game. On offense, he pushed defenders 10-15 yards downfield before planting them, and caught a touchdown pass.
On defense, he made a number of tackles in the backfield and repeatedly hit the quarterback.
In the fall, he says he will impress even more. Skukalek plays on a defensive line along with Shawn Barker and Devin Porter that is underrated, but all three are three-year starters and have received college interest.
Some colleges have already said they want to see how Skukalek performs the first three games this fall.
“I’ve been waiting for this season since my sophomore year,” Skukalek said. “I think we’re all bound to have a big year.”
Photo credit: Tom Skukalek