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MAC quarterback rivals now find themselves working toward same goal at NFL combine

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INDIANAPOLIS - Jordan Lynch and Keith Wenning have already forgotten about their college rivalry.

Today, the two quarterbacks find themselves working toward the same goal and pushing one another as training partners and friends.

Wenning wants to show NFL scouts he can make a smooth transition from Mid-American Conference star to the NFL, just like Ben Roethlisberger and Chad Pennington did before him. Lynch is trying to prove yet again that his smallish size won't be a detriment in a league that still tends to reward bigger bodies and bigger arms.

This week, they'll begin to find out just how close they are to making it in the NFL.

"I'm not going to measure in well, but I'm a football player," Lynch said recently as he prepared for the NFL's annual scouting combine in Indianapolis.

Nobody knows that better than Wenning, who spent the last two seasons trying to help Ball State keep up with Lynch and Northern Illinois.

NFL scouts view their college days through a whole different prism. While the MAC has become a proven training ground for solid NFL quarterbacks over the past 15 years, players often get downgraded because of the level of competition.

That may not be the same case with these two.

Long before they came to Indy for pre-combine workouts at St. Vincent Sports Performance, they were already chasing the same goals — bowl bids and conference championships. Back then, Lynch had the upper hand. He led Northern Illinois to the last two league title games and the first BCS bowl bid for a MAC school, things he hasn't let Wenning forget.

"We got all that out of the way the first day," Lynch said with a chuckle when asked if he reminded Wenning of what happened during their college days. "There was smack talk going on at first, but that's over now."

Instead, they're focused on getting ready for the NFL draft. Over the next week, league scouts and team executives will be watching every move Wenning, Lynch and more than 300 other players make as they try to separate themselves in the pecking order.

The first group of players arrived in town Thursday. Workouts begin Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium, and Wenning, Lynch and the rest of this year's quarterback class are scheduled to do drill work Sunday.

Neither Wenning nor Lynch come into this week with first-round projections. Teams looking for a new franchise quarterback are more likely to look at the big-name, big-school guys like Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles or Teddy Bridgewater.

But Lynch and Wenning are intriguing options.

At Northern Illinois, Lynch was a Heisman Trophy finalist who kept turning heads nationally with his gaudy running and passing numbers. He finished his career with more than 4,300 yards rushing and 100 combined touchdowns, but at 6-foot and 216 pounds and having played in mostly a spread offence, he doesn't exactly look the part of NFL quarterback and some contend he would be better served playing running back.

Wenning appears to have a more traditional NFL resume.

Listed at 6-3 and 220 pounds, the Ohio native is a more ideal size, was a four-year starter at Ball State and played in a more conventional college offence than Lynch. He left as the Cardinals' career passing leader and was the only Bowl Subdivision quarterback to throw for 299 or more yards 10 times in 2013.

The only real question now is who will go first on draft weekend?

"I believe in myself and my abilities and what I can bring to an NFL team, so I believe I have the skills that it takes at the next level," Wenning said. "You'd like to go as early as you can, and if you get a chance that's all you can ask for."

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