Goshen utilizes connections to host U.S. Army Bowl Combine Series

May 18—GOSHEN — With 40-yard dashes on one end of the field and broad jumps on the other, Goshen High School helped host the 2024 U.S. Army Bowl's Combine Series and Signing Day Sports Saturday.

Partly cloudy skies allowed the sun a wide opening for the more than 120 athletes that participated in the training camp style drills and exercises.

New Goshen football head coach Joey Hecklinski helped answer the question of — "why Goshen?"

"I think it makes a lot of sense for both parties," said Hecklinski, a cousin to Signing Day Sports President Jeff Hecklinski. "Obviously, for us, just the chance to go out and have these kids in this area, competing and kind of learn a little bit more about the recruiting process. And then for them a chance where you're not too far away from a lot of different places, Chicago, South Bend, Grand Rapids, a lot of different major hubs."

Former recruiting coordinator and coach at Indiana State University, Tyler Funk, helped lead the camp and was assisted by members of Hecklinski's staff, among others. Joe Ray, the national director of scouting for the U.S. Army Bowl, was also at Foreman Field, taking notes on athletes and performances.

Players that registered for the event visited from all over the Midwest. Illinois was the most popular state out of the visitors, joining others from Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin in taking part at the combine series. Eligible players included everyone from the 2024 class up to the 2028 recruiting class.

Registered athletes paid $130. The event is helped run by Signing Day Sports, a recruiting group based out of Scottsdale, Ariz. Athletes had their height, wingspan, shoe size, and hand size measured upon entrance. All players were also given a shirt and number to wear during the camp.

The first group included offensive lineman, defensive lineman, running backs and linebackers. That group began to arrive around 8 a.m. and ended around 1 p.m. The second group began arriving around noon and were scheduled to close around 4:30 p.m. The second group measured quarterbacks and tight ends with a third group focusing on wide receivers and defensive backs.

Funk believes he worked his first combine back in February and has since driven over the country each weekend. Goshen wasn't the original choice to host the camp.

"It was originally at Merrillville High School up in the region and for whatever reason it ended up just not working out," Funk said. "When I joined up, I recruited Chicago for a long time, I tried looking at places in Chicago and looking at some in the region that way but we have a strong connection with our team to the head football coach at Goshen Joey Hecklinski. He got the job recently and I've known Joey for a long time."

"I shot him a call and said 'hey, we're looking for a venue, how do you like your setup; do you think it would work,'" Funk said. "He's been great ever since then over a month and a half ago. That setup there is unbelievable. They did a great job there with the setup and the stadium and everything."

Drills included typical combine workouts like the previously mentioned 40-yard dash and broad jump. One-on-one position battles also were featured as well as route running which utilized quarterbacks, linebackers and other positions.

To help accurately count the basic combine drills, VALD laser technology was used.

"It's a company actually I believe out of Australia but it's the same system that they use for the NBA and MLB combines so its laser testing but it's state of the art stuff — it's really cool," Funk said.

Used for only a few exercises, the laser tracks movement and clocks in once you "break" the laser between the frame. Times and the individuals name then spins around the poll before lighting up green for the next participant.

Coaches also help attach results and videos of workouts to that athlete which they can also access on their mobile device. These results are also sent to over 200 colleges and universities anywhere from Division I to NAIA schools.

A few local athletes were also involved with Goshen, Penn, South Bend St. Joseph and West Noble athletes among the crowd.

Funk also took a moment to gather athletes and families at midfield to speak to the masses. Part of his talk included his belief that it's "harder for high school students than ever before" citing the transfer portal as part of the reason why it's harder to capture attention coming out of high school.

"I believe, and I think we all believe to some degree, that these high school kids need the most help right now in terms of navigating through a crazy world," Funk said.

Following the groups schedule of workouts, a "Selection Show" followed where top athletes from the day were honored. No bids to the game in December were given out yet says Funk, but adds that they "have our eyes on a lot of '25's that we're going to watch tape on and a lot of kids from underclass that we really like."

The 2024 U.S. Army Bowl takes place in December in Dallas, Texas.

In terms to what Goshen can expect in the future, it seems like the area left a good impression.

"We'll definitely be back for sure," Funk said.

Reach Matt Lucas at 574-533-2151, ext. 240325, or at