It's easy to see why some people at the NFL's scouting combine earlier this month keep comparing Adam Shaheen to Patriots star tight end Rob Gronkowski.
The Ashland tight end stands 6-foot-7, 277 pounds and similarly uses his massive frame to bully defenders out in the open field.
But that's probably where the comparisons start and stop — at least for now. Shaheen, asked about that dynamic made as much clear as he bashfully shrugged it off during his podium session with reporters.
"Uh," he said, laughing, "I am not too sure how to respond to people comparing me to Gronkowski."
After all, Shaheen — considered one of the better prospects in a deep and talented class of tight ends — is still trying to process his being in this position in the first place.
A lanky two-sport standout at Big Walnut High School (which sits about 30 minutes outside of Columbus), Shaheen enrolled at Pittsburgh-Johnston to play basketball. "Coming out of high school, I was 6-foot-4 and a half, 195 pounds," he said, "and Ohio State wasn't knocking on my door to come play football."
About midway through his freshman year, he had a change of heart.
"I actually went to a football game the fall of that year, and it just put a bug in me that was like … you know what, no matter what I've gotta do, I've gotta do it," he said. "The rest is history, as they say."
Shaheen, in part thanks to a growth spurt and eating "a lot of Chipotle burritos," caught 127 passes for 1,670 yards and 26 touchdowns in two seasons with the Eagles. The idea of playing in the NFL didn't often cross his mind until last season.
"I wanted to play football and get on the field," he said. "It turned into that because I have worked to get in this position."
Shaheen still has questions to answer, including whether he can turn raw talent into refined skills and what he might be able to do against elite competition.
"It's going to be completely different. That's the biggest knock on me playing Division II. Am I able translate my game to the next level?" he said. "I think I have the size, speed and athleticism. With the right coaching, it's going to be a good opportunity for me."
Shaheen, in an effort to better understand the draft process, said he's spoken with Ashland alum and Browns nose tackle Jamie Meder, who gained local fame for his game-winning blocked field goal against the Chargers this past season.
Asked if he could surpass Meder's fame, Shaheen chuckled.
He's no Rob Gronkowski. He's no Jamie Meder, either, he said.
"I haven't even considered that," Shaheen said. "I am just trying to make the best of my opportunity. I just want to get in there and if I make noise then, that's what I plan on doing."