Communications Tech's Diquan Gilbert turns heads at football combine

Harriton quarterback Pat Moriarty (left) and receiver Juwan Valentine were among area high school football players showcasing their talent at the Nike Football SPARQ Combine.
Harriton quarterback Pat Moriarty (left) and receiver Juwan Valentine were among area high school football players showcasing their talent at the Nike Football SPARQ Combine. (LAURENCE KESTERSON / Staff Photographer)
Posted: February 24, 2012

Slowed by a shoulder injury, Diquan Gilbert did not consistently impress in his junior season at Communications Tech.

So it was a bit surprising when the 16-year-old turned in a Mike Mamula-like performance in the recent Nike Football SPARQ Combine at the NovaCare Complex, posting the best score among nearly 1,200 participants.

"I was the first person he called afterward," Phoenix coach John Gossett said. "He was understandably pretty excited about it."

Like the other combine attendees, including many from Southeastern Pennsylvania and South Jersey high schools, Gilbert was tested in the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, 20-yard shuttle run, and kneeling power-ball toss.

With an overall mark of 112.05, the 6-foot-1, 194-pound defensive end beat out fellow junior and West Catholic running back David Williams (111.30) for top honors at the Feb. 12 event.

"I didn't expect to score that high," Gilbert said. "I was just hoping for an above-average result, to do better than I did the year before."

Philly was the second stop of the Nike Football SPARQ Combine tour, which runs from January to May. The 13 combines, free of charge for participants, are open to Class of 2013 members and select underclassmen.

Gilbert, who notched nine sacks last season and 15 as a sophomore, posted a combine-best mark of 4.06 seconds in the shuttle run. His power-ball toss was 42 feet.

"He was probably the best athlete on our team last year," Gossett said. "He got double- and triple-teamed a lot."

Gilbert, also a running back for the Phoenix, was electronically clocked at 4.76 seconds in the 40. "I'm pretty sure I can run faster than that," he said. He measured a 30.6-inch vertical jump.

It was a dramatic improvement from last year, when the Southwest Philly resident placed 83d out of more than 800 participants with a score of 74.46.

"I received a recruitment letter last year from Penn State, but that's it," he said. "I'm hoping I raised my stock by how I did here. We'll see."

'Training hard'

Since he already has 16 Division I scholarship offers, Williams was not at the NovaCare Complex with the goal of drawing more recruiting attention.

"I mostly wanted to see where I was at in my physical development," said the 6-foot, 190-pounder. "I was pretty confident about doing well. I've been training hard."

In the 40, Williams clocked in at 4.44 seconds. Last year, when he finished fourth overall, he was timed at 4.61 seconds.

The West Oak Lane resident has been training two to three days a week at a Clifton Heights indoor facility with speed coach Tony Fulton, who has worked with NFL players LeSean McCoy and Curtis "Boonah" Brinkley.

Williams' clocking in the shuttle run was 4.28 seconds. "That's kind of a hard one for me," he said. "It's something I'm not used to doing."

Of his 34.6-inch vertical jump, the speedster, who recently added Penn State and Ohio State to his list of scholarship offers, said, "I'm happy with that. That's pretty good for a running back."

Increased exposure

Harriton junior Pat Moriarty said the Nike Football SPARQ Combine was an opportunity for increased exposure and the chance to test an injured ankle.

"I'm working on rebuilding the muscle fibers," said the 6-2, 180-pound quarterback, who threw for 2,040 yards and 22 touchdowns in 10 games last season. "I'm still in the recovery process."

Moriarty was joined by fellow Harriton juniors Juwan Valentine, a wide receiver, and Desmond Davis, a running back. "Coach [Matt] Barr suggested we give it a try," Moriarty, of Gladwyne, said.

Other area junior quarterbacks on hand were Episcopal Academy's Adam Strouss, Penns Grove's Nick Elmer and Roman Catholic's Chris Cruz.

"Overall, it was a positive experience," Moriarty said. "There was a lot of instruction from the coaches, and there was a high energy surrounding it."

In two cracks at the 40-yard dash, Valentine's best clocking was 4.69 seconds. "It was my first time at an event like this," said the 5-9, 160-pounder, who doubles as a safety. "I know I can do better."

Measuring up

John Dubyk, a 6-1, 225-pound junior defensive end, was one of six Pennridge players to show up in South Philly.

"I was looking to see how I measured up against other players," the 17-year-old said. "I also wanted to find out what things I needed to work on going into my senior year."

Dubyk, also a tight end and punter for the Rams, placed 218th overall. He fared the best in the power-ball toss, with a mark of 381/2 feet.

The Sellersville resident was timed at 5.19 seconds in the 40. "It was OK, not the best," he said. "I'm trying to get faster. To help with that, I'm going to run track in the spring."

Pennridge's John Kim, a junior defensive back, placed 19th overall. He covered 40 yards in 4.5 seconds.

"This is another way to get your name out there, to show what you can do," Dubyk said. "You never know what might come from it."

Combine Tour Stops in Philadelphia

Here are some of the individual results from the recent Nike Football SPARQ Combine at the NovaCare Complex:

Name   School   Yr/Pos.   Ht.   Wt.   40   SH   VJ   PB   SPARQ 

Conner Bor    Bishop Eustace    Jr./DB    6-0    201    4.92 4.45    35.8    44.0    102.51

Sharif Custis    Neumann-Goretti   Jr./TE    6-3    196    4.63 4.50    25.7    40.0     88.86

William Fuller    Roman Catholic    Jr./WR    6-1    152    4.53 4.26    33.9    32.0     88.47

Joe Barrett    Malvern Prep    Jr./LB    6-0    209    4.88 4.41    29.9    38.0     87.24

Ernest Pendleton   Lower Merion    Jr./RB    5-10    172    4.62 4.50    33.0    36.0     86.01

Brandon Spatz    Father Judge    Jr./WR    5-11    194    4.58 4.31    26.0    33.0     83.28

Terrance Toney    Middle Twp.   Jr./DB    5-11    161    4.72 4.21    28.3    34.0     80.43

Anthony Robertson   Penns Grove    So./RB    5-10    190    4.68 4.40    28.1    34.0     80.16

Jarred Jones    Spring-Ford    So./RB    5-10    176    4.73 4.69    32.4    37.0     79.59

David Hood    Absegami    So./RB    5-9    163    4.67 4.46    33.2    33.0     79.29

Desmond Cottman   Atlantic City    Jr./DB    5-7    163    4.75 4.25    33.2    30.5     79.08

Justin Moody    G. Washington   Jr./DL    6-2    280    5.43 4.52    22.6    37.0     74.73

KEY: 40: 40-yard dash; SH: 20-yard shuttle run; VJ: vertical jump; PB: power-ball toss; SPARQ: Overall score - Rick O'Brien

Contact Rick O'Brien at 610-313-8019,, or @ozoneinq on Twitter. Read his blog, "The O'Zone," at


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