Editor's note: This is the first in a series of stories that will follow South Dakota linebacker Tyler Starr as he prepares for May's NFL Draft.

VERMILLION, S.D. | University of South Dakota All-American linebacker Tyler Starr, who grew up in Little Rock, Iowa, will almost certainly be selected in the National Football League draft in April.

The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Starr took time off to receive a degree in sports management on Dec. 18 and another week for Christmas, but in the weeks leading up to that and from now on, he is getting his body in shape for the upcoming NFL combine.

Starr, the Missouri Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year, has been projected as a late round selection after finishing a star-studded collegiate career with 184 tackles, 41 tackles for loss and 27 sacks.

CBS Sports lists Starr as the No. 21-ranked outside linebacker and the 213th player overall. NFLdraftscout.com, meanwhile, has the former Coyote standout No. 18 among outside linebackers and 213 overall.

Multiple websites have Starr as the No. 2 small college linebacker prospect behind Jordan Tripp, a middle linebacker from the University of Montana.

While he prepares for a possible future in professional football, The Sioux City Journal will follow his progress with updated reports.

“I’ve been trying to get my body back into performance shape,” said Starr, who’s been training at the Sanford Fieldhouse in Sioux Falls. “A lot of weight training, speed training and football drills.”

On a typical day, Starr will arrive at 10 a.m., first working on speed training and then weight training. After lunch, he and Sanford performance trainer Paul Keizer go to work on football specific training drills, such as footwork, hands, etc.

“I do a double-day (as previously described) on Monday, Wednesday and Friday,” Starr said. “Tuesday and Thursdays are for weight lifting.”

Starr has accepted an invitation to play in the East-West Shrine Game on Saturday, Jan. 18 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. (home of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team). There he will join standouts from both FBS and FCS programs in the longest running college all-star game in the country, dating back to 1925.

Final rosters have not been set, but among the notables who’ve already accepted invitations are Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch and Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees. Receiver Quincy Enunwa and offensive tackle Jeremiah Sirles of Nebraska will also play.

Starr, North Dakota State’s Billy Turner and Marcus Williams, Montana’s Tripp and Northern Arizona running back Zach Bauman are among the FCS invitees.

Practices run from Jan. 11-17 with the game kicking off at 3 p.m. (central time) on the NFL Network.

The day after the game, Starr will depart for Nashville, Tenn., where he will continue to train for the NFL Combine on Monday, Feb. 24 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

“I’m just taking it one day at a time, trying not to overlook anything,” Starr said. “I will do what I can every day to get better and keep waking up with that same attitude every day. My body feels really good. I’m ready to make things happen.”