LAWRENCE — For Joe Dineen, the most maddening part of the process was the unanswered question.
The former Kansas football linebacker, who last fall capped a record-breaking career, didn’t receive an invite to the NFL Scouting Combine, held Feb. 26-March 4 in Indianapolis. Eager to see how he stacks up against the best of the best at his position, Dineen instead watched from home, tracking other linebackers’ performances online.
It was an admittedly disheartening experience.
“I was frustrated, more so because you don’t really know why,” Dineen said Wednesday. “But it is what it is.”
That doesn’t mean, however, that “The Mayor” is giving up on his professional campaign.
After spending the first two months of the new year training at Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based performance facility XPE Sports, Dineen returned home, where he spoke with reporters while observing the Jayhawks’ first spring practice. Another stint in the Sunshine State begins Monday, with a return to the Sunflower State for KU’s pro day on March 27 on tap.
While the former All-Big 12 first-teamer will likely never get an explanation for the combine invitation that never came, the Jayhawks’ own showcase could help offset that snub.
“I think if I come out here and perform on pro day then everything I want is still in front of me,” said Dineen, who added NFL Draft projections have pegged him anywhere from a Day 3 selection to an undrafted rookie free agent. “... I think if I can compare some of my times to the times that I saw at the combine, I’ll stack up pretty well.”
Dineen, who notched Big 12-best marks of 142 total tackles and 109 solo stops as a senior, explained his focus over the last two months has been on speed and agility, working explosiveness-oriented drills at XPE Sports — “Honestly, it’s like track,” he said. While feedback at January’s East-West Shrine game and elsewhere has been positive, Dineen said scouts remain uncertain about his lateral movement and quickness.
He hopes to show he’s more than adequate at both at KU's showcase.
“I’m pretty confident in myself after seeing what (the other linebackers did),” Dineen said. “Obviously they did good, but I’m confident to show what I got. ...
“The question marks are what they are. But I think if I can match (other linebackers) it might show I’m athletic enough to play, and match that with the production I did have in college, I think I’ll be OK.”
Before returning to Florida, Dineen wanted at least one glimpse of the new-look Jayhawks.
Still close with many current KU players, Dineen said he’s heard first-year head coach Les Miles is “running a tight ship,” feedback that excites the Lawrence native.
“I think it’s going up and up. I really do,” Dineen said of the program. “I’m obviously glad with the coaches that they kept on. Obviously I was sad to see some of them go because I was close with quite a few of them, but it’s just kind of the business. From what I hear the coaches that they hired are pretty damn good, so I think they’ll be good. ...
“I’m really excited to see what they can do. I need to come back when they put pads back on, though. This isn’t football yet.”
Whether Dineen will have an opportunity to do so remains to be determined, though he knows he’s guaranteed at least one more trip home this spring.
And when draft week rolls around, he can at least rest easy knowing this time, he’ll almost certainly get an answer.
“The great part about the NFL is it only takes one team to like you. It takes one team to take a chance on you,” Dineen said. “So I’m hoping pro day will help me out with that. ... I hope we get some scouts in here and I can show out.”