November 6, 2008

Cornell Players Keep NFL Prospects in Mind

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Cornell football fans certainly remember Kevin Boothe ’06 dancing in the desert last February after the New York Giants shocked the world in Super Bowl XLII. While few outside of the Cornell football community and perhaps Boothe’s own family were aware of his contributions to the victory, Boothe was in on numerous special play opportunities and made the Red proud on those occasions.
[img_assist|nid=33333|title=Lucky Number Seven|desc=Senior left tackle Steve Valenta (79) looks to follow in the footsteps of Kevin Boothe ’06 (77), who is now a Giants guard but played for the Red when Valenta was a freshman.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
While the ranks of former Ivy Leaguers playing on Sundays parallel the number of states that went Red this past Tuesday, two members of this year’s Cornell squad hope to make the transition next season to the NFL. Senior left tackle Steve Valenta and senior safety Tim Bax hope to follow in Boothe’s footsteps someday, but first they must catch the eye of an NFL scout.
Two teams that have scouted the pair are the Jacksonville Jaguars and Indianapolis Colts, according to Bax, the hard-hitting safety who leads the Red with 61 tackles this year.
“If anything, it makes you work that much harder just because people are watching,” Bax said. “You always want to go out every day at practice and work your hardest. It’s kind of hard not to notice when an NFL scout is here.”
Although neither Bax nor Valenta have been contacted directly by an NFL scout, head coach Jim Knowles ’87 has fielded questions from the talent evaluators.
“They know what they’re looking for, but it’s really all about opportunity,” Knowles said. “Bax has a chance because of his play on special teams, and Steve [Valenta] really has the size that they’re looking for.”
Bax and Valenta were both selected as second-team All-Ivy honorees in 2007. And based upon their play this season, the seniors are once again in contention for All-Ivy accolades this year.
Both Bax and Valenta were freshman during Boothe’s senior season. In fact, Valenta, 6-6 and 313 pounds, apprenticed as Boothe’s backup and earned playing time alongside the All-American at the guard position.
“We’re still in touch,” Valenta said. “We text each other back and forth after games. I’ll see how he’s doing. He’s come back a few times and hung out. We have a pretty good relationship. We’ll talk a little bit about [the NFL game], but mostly it’s just words of encouragement. He’s always interested to see how the team is doing. He still cares a lot about Cornell football.”
While Valenta calls Orchard, Park, Ill., home, Bax originally hails from the nearby city of Chicago. Also coincidentally, both are fans of the Monsters of the Midway — the Chicago Bears.
“It was my dream since I was little kid, so if I have the opportunity, I’m definitely going to take it and run with it,” Bax said. “I think at this point, it would be NFL or nothing. If it’s the NFL, it’s the NFL, if it’s not, then it’s on to reality. I’ll be a working man.”
“I’m definitely going to do everything that I can in my power to make it,” Valenta said. “If not, I went to a pretty good school and all, so I should have some options after that. Right now that’s my first priority.”