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2013 NFL Draft: Ryan Spadola -- small-school prospect with big dreams

Lehigh wide receiver Ryan Spadola is participating in the Texas vs. the Nation all-star game this week, hoping to show NFL scouts he has what it takes to make it in the NFL

Ryan Spadola (8) runs with the ball after making a catch against Fordham
Ryan Spadola (8) runs with the ball after making a catch against Fordham
Lehigh Athletics

Ryan Spadola does not come from a school you would call a hotbed of NFL players. Spadola, a wide receiver, from Lehigh University will be among the players showcasing their talents for NFL scouts this week at the Texas vs. the Nation all-star game.

The game does not feature the big names or likely early draft picks who attended last week's Senior Bowl, or even the East-West Shrine Game. There are, however, many players participating in the game who will go on to have successful NFL careers.

Spadola, a two-time FCS All-American at Lehigh. hopes to be among them. Spadola spoke with me over the weekend, prior to leaving for Texas vs. the Nation practices, which begin Tuesday.

[Texas vs. the Nation players to watch]

Spadola, 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, said he is hoping to show scouts "I have the same talent as most of these guys who went to 1-A levels."

In a four-year career at Lehigh, the Howell, N.J. native caught 232 passes, 24 for touchdowns, averaging 15.6 yards per catch. He was a third-team FCS All-American after catching 78 passes as a sophomore and a first-team All-American after 96 receptions his junior season. He set a single-season Patriot League record as a junior with 1,614 receiving yards.

Spadola was a preseason FCS All-American prior to his senior season. The 2012 campaign did not go as planned, however. He missed two games with mononucleosis and, before being diagnosed, had played in several others while weakened. He caught 57 passes.

The Texas vs. the Nation game and the upcoming NFL Scouting Combine, to which he has also been invited, provide Spadola with an opportunity to showcase his skills now that he is once again healthy.

"You always want to go out with a bang. I didn't have the season I wanted to have statistically as an individual," Spadola said.

Only one NFL player currently hails from Lehigh. That would be Jacksonville Jaguars guard Will Rackley, a third-round draft choice in 2011. Rackley was the first Lehigh player drafted by an NFL team since 1995, when the Washington Redskins selected defensive end Rich Owens in the fifth round.

Spadola, who also ran track in high school, knows he has to show NFL talent evaluators he can succeed against elite competition.

"The biggest thing they want to see is am I a guy that gets separation from these other talented corners that came from the 1-A level. That is going to be a huge thing for me," Spadola said. "I like the competition. I look forward to the challenge. I think it will be a great experience."

Spadola has been training at Fit Speed Athletic Performance in Florida, and will return there after playing in the Texas vs. the Nation game.

"Throughout my entire career there's always been a thing of doubt. Coming out of high school people didn't know if I was going to perform well at the college level. I proved a lot of people wrong," Spadola said. "I think the way the league is going there's a great opportunity for receivers just like myself. Going forward I want to prove myself to coaches and GMs that I'm a guy that could be a valuable asset to teams."