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In 2016, 38 players were selected in the NFL Draft even though they weren't invited to the Scouting Combine. In the last week before the draft, PFW is introducing fans to "late risers," prospects who didn't go to the Combine but impressed at a Pro Day and are getting attention from NFL teams at the right time.

Previous stories: Northwestern LB Joe Jones, Western State (Co.) RB Austin Ekeler, Old Dominion DT Rashaad Coward

For anyone walking around Midland, Mich. this week, keep an eye out for a future NFL offensive lineman.

That’s the home of Andrew Wylie, who is up at 5 a.m. every morning, at the gym by 7 and then spends the rest of his day helping out around his family farm.

“I’m just a helping hand right now,” said Wylie. “I’m an extra set of hands around the house.”

Those hands will transition from working on Christmas trees on the family farm to fighting with opposing defensive linemen to protect a quarterback at the next level. If he gets there, Wylie would be the second player ever from Midland High School to make the NFL, joining Howard Mudd.

“I walk out of the gym, I walk into the grocery store or get gas and someone knows you,” he said. “That’s a fantastic part of being from a small town. It’s all positive feedback. That just helps fuel the drive because I do it for the people of my hometown, too.”

NFL Draft fans may not know the 6-foot-6 Wylie as well as the residents of Midland. After wrapping up a successful career at Eastern Michigan, the only school to hold its offer for Wylie after he had a thyroid issue in high school, he earned third-team All-MAC honors this past season. Wylie didn’t get invited to the Combine, but had a sensational Pro Day.

“I’m not going to lie to you, I was pretty surprised I didn’t get a Combine invite,” he said. “I did know it was going to be a long shot, being an offensive lineman from the MAC. I really wanted that Combine invite because my numbers, I would have been first place in a lot of different categories for offensive linemen. I thought that would help me out. But still got overlooked a little bit.”

His numbers are impressive. Wylie’s 34-inch vertical would have ranked first for O-linemen at the Combine by two full inches. His 9-foot-7-inch broad jump would have tied for first. His 4.5-second 20-yard shuttle would have ranked second, along with a 7.3-second three-cone time.

Suffice to say, Wylie enjoyed his Pro Day experience.

“I was rolling,” he said. “I was having the best time of my life.”

Wylie was a key contributor for an Eastern Michigan team that reached its first bowl game in 29 years. He wanted to help “turn the program around,” but individually, he knew right away that a path to the NFL was possible.

“I knew when I came in that my work ethic was already there,” he said. “I was already out-working upperclassmen when I came in as a true freshman and I played all 12 games that true freshman year. After that I knew this is what i wanted to make a career out of. Because I was out there, 18 years old, going against guys like Khalil Mack and Dante Fowler in those big out-of-conference games. I was holding my own against those guys. That’s when I knew I could make a job out of this.”

Wylie started all 12 games at left tackle as a freshman. As a senior, he started all 12 games at right tackle and finished his career with 44 starts, ranking fourth all-time at EMU. He said teams see him at left guard or right tackle, and his speed and agility are standing out to teams that still see him at tackle despite shorter arms.

Wylie did watch the Combine. He said he does every year so he could see future competition. This year, he wanted to compare himself to the players “looked at as the best at what they do.” In his drills, he proved that the measureables are there, and Wylie believes he has the work ethic, too, to make an NFL roster.

“I’ve always been that guy from the small school. … Just been hardworking ever since,” he said. “It’s always been an uphill battle. I’ve always embraced that. It hasn’t stopped. I’ve been doing it for so long, why stop now? I know it’s going to be hard, but I think I’m more prepared because of it.”

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This article originally ran on profootballweekly.com.

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