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CU football: Nelson Spruce believes his draft value transcends combine

Former Colorado wide receiver Nelson Spruce is timed in the 40-yard dash during the Buffs' Pro Day in March. According to an anonymous AFC general manager, Spruce looks like "a late-round guy who can help your team."
Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
Former Colorado wide receiver Nelson Spruce is timed in the 40-yard dash during the Buffs’ Pro Day in March. According to an anonymous AFC general manager, Spruce looks like “a late-round guy who can help your team.”

Quite a catch

Colorado has had several receivers selected in the NFL draft over the years, starting with end Leon Lavington, who was picked by the Chicago Cardinals in 1938. This week, Nelson Spruce will look to become the latest CU receiver to be drafted. Here’s a look at the last 10 CU receivers selected:

2014 – Paul Richardson, 2nd round, Seattle

2012 – Toney Clemons, 7th round, Pittsburgh

2011 – Scotty McKnight, 7th round, N.Y. Jets

2006 – Jeremy Bloom, 5th round, Philadelphia

2004 – D.J. Hackett, 5th round, Seattle

1999 – Darrin Chiaverini, 5th round, Cleveland

1998 – Phil Savoy, 7th round, Arizona

1997 – Rae Carruth, 1st round, Carolina

1995 – Michael Westbrook, 1st round, Washington

1994 – Charles Johnson, 1st round, Pittsburgh

By now, if NFL scouts aren’t sure if Nelson Spruce can play in their league, he has just one message for them: Watch the film.

“The best thing is to look at my game film,” Spruce said. “My last two years at Colorado, I feel like I was one of the most productive receivers in the country.

“In the combine and all of that stuff isn’t where I’m really going to excel. I feel like I did as much as I could there, and I was happy with the way it turned out, but I feel like if you go back to my game film, you can see that I know how to play this game. My knowledge of the game and my passion is there.”

Spruce is hoping he’s done enough to prove himself to the NFL, and he’ll find out this week when the NFL draft takes place in Chicago from Thursday through Saturday. Along with cornerback Kenneth Crawley and offensive lineman Stephane Nembot, Spruce is among the Buffs most likely to be drafted.

“Until you get that call, you never know, but I think I’ll get my name called in the later rounds,” said Spruce, who is 6-foot-1, 206 pounds. “I know on the first and second day, I won’t hear my name, but I’m just going to try to stay in my normal routine. I told myself I’m not going to worry about it; we’ll see how it goes once the time gets here.”

Spruce had a brilliant career at Colorado, setting school-career records for catches (294), receiving yards (3,347) and receiving touchdowns (23). He’s also the Pac-12 Conference record holder for career catches.

Before 2014, no CU player had ever caught more than 11 passes in a single game, but Spruce had games of 19, 13 and 13 catches that season.

Spruce made a name for himself at CU as a sure-handed receiver who ran exceptional routes and could be relied upon in clutch situations.

During workouts for NFL scouts, Spruce didn’t wow anybody with his speed (4.69 seconds in the 40-yard dash), and he didn’t produce exceptional workout numbers. Yet, it’s really tough to ignore what he’s done on game day.

On Spruce’s draft profile, an anonymous AFC general manager is quoted as saying, “His production had our area scout over-grading him, but once you get past what he can’t do and focus on what he can do you feel better about him as a late-round guy who can help your team.”

Spruce is hoping that message has spread across the NFL, because he has the utmost belief in himself to be a productive player in the league.

“Physically I feel like I’m perfect right now,” he said. “I like where my weight is at, I’m strong, I’m fast. I’m going to be feeling good physically going into camp. Mentally, I’m just ready to go, as well. I feel really confident that no matter where I get drafted or what team, I’ll be able to make an impact. I’m feeling really good and confident.”

Spruce has spent most of the offseason working out near his home in Southern California, and recently had a workout for the Los Angeles Rams. During that workout, former USC quarterback Cody Kessler threw passes to him and Spruce said the workout “went really well.”

Whether it’s the Rams or somebody else that takes him, though, Spruce said he’s just eager to prove he can play in the NFL.

“When it comes down to it, I know how to play football,” he said. “(Teams) having a real interest in me is kind of surreal almost, but at the same time, it’s just the beginning for me. I’ve always had super high expectations of myself and my dream is being a successful NFL player and having a long career.

“In one way, it’s pretty awesome, but at the same time, I really haven’t accomplished anything yet.”

Brian Howell:, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.

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