‘Northwoods Combine’ showcase football players at the Hodag Dome

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RHINELANDER, Wis. (WSAW) – More than 40 Wisconsin high school football players traveled to Rhinelander on Saturday for the inaugural “Northwoods Combine,” held at the Hodag Dome.

The event was created by Rhineland coaching staff who wanted to create more opportunities for athletes living in the top half of the state.

“There are a lot of kids in northern Wisconsin who might not be able to get to the WFCA combine or other southern Wisconsin combines,” said Luke Roberts, coach of the Rhinelander staff and combine organizer. “We kind of saw the need for something here for them just to get that exposure and that experience.”

Participants came from all over the state to participate in a variety of drills and stations in front of scouts and college coaches. Rhinelander, Tomahawk, Merrill, Lakeland Union, Wausau West and Wausau East all had representatives at the combine.

“Part of playing sports in high school is the experience you get doing other things related to it and competing,” Roberts said. “We saw this need and decided to take it.”

For those who participate, the opportunity itself is something they are excited to take advantage of.

“It’s my first time on a combine, yes,” said Nathan Brzoznowski, a junior at Merrill. “I’m really excited. Not really nervous, I’m just here to have fun.

Not only is it a chance for the top half of the state to show off their footballing talent, but the Hodag Dome provides the perfect setting.

“I mean it’s a beautiful place,” Brzoznowski said. “It’s big and it’s a perfect place to show off your abilities and have all kinds of people come and watch.”

Even those familiar with the dome know it’s something that elevates all aspects of the competition.

“The dome has definitely elevated our football and just our sports in general at Rhinelander,” said Rhinelander sophomore James Heck. “It’s great to have that here and show it all.”

Roberts says he hopes to continue the combine next year. As for the athletes, they are grateful to have something so close.

“It’s good that people come here, test their skills here, and have colleges look at you, it’s great,” Heck said.

“It’s just a lot of fun to have this here locally,” Brzoznowski said. “It’s just down to the right, so that’s even better.”

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