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Missouri Western's David Bass

Missouri Western State defensive lineman David Bass runs a drill during the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. (AP Photo)

Five years ago, nobody wanted David Bass. Nobody except NCAA Division II Missouri Western State University, that is.

Now, it looks like the NFL wants him. After an impressive week at the East-West Shrine game in January, Bass got an invitation to the NFL scouting combine.

“I don’t even think I knew what the combine was in high school, to be honest,” Bass said.

Although now on the upswing, the University City High football program wasn’t exactly a magnet for college recruiters when Bass played his senior season there in 2007.

“At U. City, we didn’t win a lot of games,” Bass said. “And we just weren’t on for putting people at the next level.”

A couple of colleges showed interest. “But Missouri Western was the only one to offer me a full ride,” Bass said. “I felt that they were fully invested and so I made the decision to go there, and it worked out for the best.”

For all parties concerned. Following a redshirt season in ’08, Bass started a school-record 50 consecutive games over the next four seasons. He finished with a school-record 40½ career sacks, including 11½ this past season and 14½ in 2011.

Now, he projects as a third-day pick in the NFL draft, somewhere in the round 4-6 area. Some teams are looking at him as a 4-3 end; others as a 3-4 outside linebacker. He played 4-3 end in college.

Jerry Partridge, the highly successful coach at Missouri Western for 16 seasons, could see the potential in Bass all along, even if few others did.

“We’ve recruited St. Louis consistently hard for more than a decade,” Partridge said. “We’ve gotten a few U. City kids. With Davis, the film wasn’t really good to watch. It was grainy. It was hard to get zeroed in on a kid.”

Partridge and his staff obviously saw enough.

“David’s frame is what it is,” Partridge said. “He’s got a very good skeleton. Obviously, you could see the room for growth.”

Partridge was 6-4, and about 210 pounds when he arrived at the Missouri Western campus in St. Joseph. He weighed in at 262 pounds at the combine.

“David probably got his hands on at least eight passes a year — bat downs,” Partridge said. “He’s a great screen-sniffer. He’ll be coming off the pass rush and just sense screen and drop back, get his hand up, and mess it up.”

Bass did more than just bat down passes; he had five interceptions over his college career — or as many as Texas Longhorns safety Kenny Vaccaro, widely considered one of the top safety prospects in the draft and a first-round talent.

One of the benefits of playing at Missouri Western for Bass was that the Kansas City Chiefs have trained there for the past couple of summers. He’d watch the defensive line drills closely but also got a feel for what the NFL was like in general.

“If I did run into one of (the Chiefs), I’d ask them what it’s like in the meeting room, or offseason stuff to get them ready before their season, and just their tempo at practice,” Bass said.

All along, Bass has tried to emulate a star defensive end from the center of the state — Aldon Smith of the University of Missouri, now a Pro Bowler with the San Francisco 49ers.

“He came in about the same size as I was, and was very productive,” Bass said. “I see myself as having a lot of the same skill set as he has.”

Bass has watched Smith’s combine workout on tape, and also his Mizzou games. He tries to catch the 49ers on TV whenever possible.

Up next will be several private workouts for NFL clubs as well as Missouri Western’s pro day March 22. Bass ran a respectable 4.84 in the 40 at the combine but wants to do much better at his pro day. He had been timed as fast as 4.65 previously.

Jim Thomas covers Blues hockey for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.