Dog Days of NFL Combine

Amazing, isn’t it, to see how their stories turned out?

Rushel Shell was the ballyhooed running back who set the state rushing record at Hopewell and chose to follow in Tony Dorsett’s footsteps at Pitt. James Conner was recruited as a defensive end out of McDowell a year later, in a Pitt recruiting class that signed only one running back.

When Shell quit the Panthers during spring drills amid a tumultuous freshman season, the shell game was a test of character for the star back and first-year Panthers coach Paul Chryst.

Shell’s departure opened an opportunity for Conner, who finished his freshman season by breaking Dorsett’s school record for rushing yards in a bowl game. It was a performance that drew compliments for Conner from the Pitt great.

Where Shell struggled at West Virginia, Conner starred at Pitt.

Conner became a hero for putting a brave face on his battle with leukemia. Shell never quite lived up to his four-star billing, at Pitt or West Virginia.

Now, both are at the NFL Combine trying to make a positive impression.

Conner is one of the top dogs, Shell one of the underdogs.

That their stories intertwined — one an inspirational tale, the other a cautionary tale — is telling, given the difference in hype that preceded their arrival at Pitt and their status entering the NFL Draft.

James Conner

James Conner: ‘My mental toughness and my physical toughness, I feel, is second to none’

The NFL Combine is the latest test for James Conner, reports Joe Rutter from Indianapolis, and it’s one the former Pitt running back is ready.

In the NFL Combine notebook, Rutter writes that former West Virginia running back Rushel Shell relishes his role as an ‘underdog.’

West Virginia football is sporting a new look, writes David Statman.

IN BRADENTON

Felipe Rivero

Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage is a fan of Felipe Rivero’s ‘Bugs Bunny changeup’

Change is good for Pirates reliever Felipe Rivero, reports Rob Biertempfel.

Jordy Mercer grand slam

Jordy Mercer’s grand slam was one of four home runs for the Pirates against the Tigers

In the Pirates notebook, Biertempfel writes that Jordy Mercer’s grand slam was part of a power display.

Biertempfel’s breakdown of Pirates 11, Tigers 1.

Jung Ho Kang 4

Jung Ho Kang was sentenced to eight months in prison, to be served in two years

In a report out of South Korea, Pirates third baseman Jung Ho Kang received a suspended sentence for his third DUI.

ON THE ICE

Marc-Andre Fluery 5

The Penguins kept goalie Marc-Andre Fleury but expect to trade him before the June 21 draft

In a Penguins analysis, Jonathan Bombulie and Bill West ponder the team after the trade deadline.