INDIANAPOLIS –Mitch Gilles plays quarterback at Castle High School, located near the Ohio River in southwest Indiana. That made for a long trip to the Preps Pro Combine at the Indianapolis Colts' headquarters, the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. He did not mind.
Gilles, a senior-to-be who likely will be one of the top quarterbacks in the state next season, viewed Sunday's event as an opportunity to get even better.
"What I've learned is that there is room to improve in every single drill," Gilles said. "Every time I come to one of these, I get a little better."
Nearly 250 high school athletes from around Indiana attended the Colts' Preps Pro Combine, presented by Under Armour and the Indiana National Guard. They were weighed and measured, ran agility and speed tests and performed in weight-lifting trials. The 30 quarterbacks on hand demonstrated their passing skills.
The opportunity to throw to receivers is what especially appealed to Gilles, making the trip to Indy a must-do. The strong-armed quarterback has attended combine events elsewhere that included no passing drills, only speed, agility and weight tests.
Results of the Colts' Preps Pro Combine are made available to college coaches at all levels. Every session for every player also is videotaped and can be viewed by college coaches. That means good numbers, crisp throws and deft catches will grab a recruiter's attention and aid a player in that process.
For Gilles, the process has already begun with an unofficial visit to Iowa. The 6-2, 205-pound quarterback led Castle to an 11-1 record last year. He passed for 3,099 yards, including 364 in one game, and 33 touchdowns.
Tino Smith has attracted recruiters' attention, too. The senior-to-be from Guerin Catholic in Noblesville, Ind., passed for 2,747 yards and 30 scores in 2011. Even more impressive is his 17-4 record as a two-year starter as Guerin's quarterback.
The Colts' Preps Pro Combine is in its fifth year, and this was Smith's second appearance.
"I wanted to come back, improve my scores and see what I can do better," said the 6-2, 195-pound Smith, who has a number of NCAA Division I coaches interested. "I wanted to see if all the hard work I've put in has paid off."
Smith glanced around the Colts' indoor practice facility, where the team's Super Bowl and divisional championship banners are displayed.
"It's wonderful," he said, "that we're on the same field where the Colts practice."
Like Smith, quarterback Austin Anglea of Speedway will be a senior next season. Also like Smith, the 6-0 Anglea has enjoyed an impressive start to his high school career. Anglea passed for 4,804 yards and 47 touchdowns as a sophomore and junior. He led Speedway to an 8-2 record in 2011.
"I threw well today," Anglea said as he departed the Preps Pro Combine. "One disappointing thing, though, was how I did in the pro agility drill. I really want to improve that.
"Coming here, it will help keep my eyes open to what I need to do to get better."
Anglea has gained some attention from Mid-American Conference colleges and a few Ivy League schools. His recruitment will kick into high gear next fall.
Jake Purichia, who will be a junior next fall at Cardinal Ritter in Indianapolis, is just getting started in showing how his skills will translate to the college level. But it is a formidable start. He passed for more than 2,200 yards as a sophomore.
Displaying his wares at the combine was new for Purichia. But he departed hopeful that college coaches will take notice of the results.
"That's the idea," said Purichia, who also plans to attend some one-day football camps this summer. "I wanted to come here and try to perform at my best. Hopefully, I do well and the college coaches will see that."
Mike Prior, the Colts' Youth Football Commissioner, is the organizer of the Preps Pro Combine. With the help of the Indiana National Guard and a number of high school coaches from the state, the 2012 combine came off smoothly.
"I'm very happy," Prior said. "I think the athletes who came got a great experience and found out where they measure. They know what they did here, and they know what they have to do to get ready for next season."