INDIANAPOLIS — Tajae Sharpe has done a lot in preparation for this week. Running, jumping, lifting, and talking. All the expected activities that go along with the NFL Scouting Combine.
The UMass receiver also has done his share of chuckling. Particularly when the subject is his hand size. Or more specifically, his perceived lack of hand size.
“I kind of laugh about it,” said the 21-year-old Sharpe. “It’s funny to me. It doesn’t really matter to me what size my hands are as long as I can catch the ball. It’s never been a problem for me. It’s not something I can work on. My hand size is what it’s going to be. I kind of laugh about it. It’s funny to hear all the jokes that are made, but it doesn’t bother me at all.’’
At least Sharpe’s hands are trending in the right direction. At the East-West Shrine Game, Sharpe’s hands were measured at 7¾ inches. At the Senior Bowl they checked in at 8. This week Sharpe was given a measurement of 8⅜ .
Sharpe boasts lots of other numbers that are pretty impressive. The 6-foot-2-inch, 189-pounder followed up his junior season in Amherst, where he collected 85 passes for 1,281 yards and 7 touchdowns, with a monster senior campaign in which he put up 111 catches for 1,319 yards, and 5 TDs.
His 111 receptions and 9.3 receptions per game average led the nation. He finished his Minuteman career with 277 grabs for 3,486 yards, and at least one catch in every game.
Sharpe, who will run his 40 Saturday, suffered a hamstring injury early in Senior Bowl week and wasn’t able to play in the game. He said Thursday he is “100 percent” recovered.
Sharpe said most schools recruited him to play safety and after first committing to Kent State, he changed his mind and settled on UMass because he could play receiver.
Sharpe said he is in contact with former UMass receiver Victor Cruz and they text frequently. Sharpe is considered by many draftniks to be a middle-round pick.
“Being in this position, to have this opportunity is a blessing in its own,’’ Sharpe said. “There are a whole bunch of guys around the country who wish they could be in this position. Whether you’re a first-round pick or a seventh-round pick, it really doesn’t matter. If you’re blessed to play in the NFL, it’s a great opportunity. It’ll mean a whole lot for my program at UMass, just to give other kids confidence that they can do some of the things that I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to do.’’
Sharpe said he had two formal interviews lined up in Indy, but was not scheduled to meet with the Patriots.
“It’s not where you come from, but the type of work you put in,’’ Sharpe said. “What you put in, you get out.”
With the Patriots possibly in the market for a receiver, some names to watch for other than Sharpe are Ohio State’s Braxton Miller and Rutgers’ Leonte Carroo. Miller, a former quarterback, proved to be a fast learner after switching positions. He has the quickness and versatility to fit into New England’s offense. Miller had a particularly impressive Senior Bowl week, which was a personal goal. “[I wanted] to show I’m capable of doing whatever any receiver in the country can do. I wanted to make sure my name was in the mix of all that good talk that was going on. I think I did.’’ Asked if he thought he was first-round material, Miller said with a broad smile, “Do I think? Oh, I know for sure. The way I work?’’
Carroo has good size (5-11, 217 pounds) and strength though he lacks ideal speed. He said he’d love to extend the New England-Rutgers connection. “I’m just enjoying the process right now. Whatever happens happens, but speaking to those guys that I played with, especially Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon, Devin [McCourty], they always say they would love to have me and would enjoy playing on the team again. I talk to Logan and Duron all the time. I played with them my freshman year, two great players that I gave looks to on scout team as a freshman and competed against. They taught me.’’
Boston College defensive tackle Connor Wujciak checked in Friday at 6-2, 291 pounds, down about 10 pounds from his playing weight. He attributed it to Combine preparations and eating better. Wujciak said it was a tough senior season (the Eagles finished 3-9) but there was a silver lining. “We did finish No. 1 in the country [defensively], which is pretty cool to say.’’ Wujciak said the top thing he needs to work on his pass rushing but he considers himself a stout run defender . . . BC linebacker Steven Daniels (5-11, 243 pounds) had a great response when asked to describe himself as a defender: “I’m on top of you, I know what you’re going to do, and I’m going to meet you there.’’ . . . Eagles defensive end Mehdi Abdesmad checked in at 6-6, 284 pounds and held the unofficial No. 1 ranking of toughest name to pronounce (Boise State’s Rees Odhiambo and Ole Miss’s Robert Nkemdiche were also in the running) . . . BC safety Justin Simmons will work out Saturday . . . Buffalo Bills coaches (and twins) Rex and Rob Ryan showed up to watch the on-field workouts wearing throwback Bills jerseys. A very svelte-looking Rex rocked a blue Thurman Thomas No. 34, while Rob sported a white No. 12 Jim Kelly . . . Mississippi State defensive tackle Chris Jones (6-6, 310 pounds) listed New England among the teams he has met with. “New Orleans Saints, Jaguars, Eagles, Cleveland Browns, New York Giants, Patriots, a couple more. Right now, my head is spinning,” said Jones . . . Georgia’s Keith Marshall had the top time in the 40 among running backs with a 4.31. Chris Johnson holds the Combine’s all-time mark of 4.24 . . . Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott, considered the top running back in this year’s class, is auctioning off the two pairs of cleats he wore at Friday’s workout (he clocked a 4.47 in the 40) with the proceeds going to charities that raise the awareness of and support the victims of domestic violence.