Combine allows small school prospects to shine
Posted: 5 minutes ago
Day 1 of the 2007 Scouting Combine is winding down, and these observations follow several interviews, many more sightings, and the sort of environment that any football junkie would most likely consider his own personal paradise. If they ever charge admission for this thing (and there is talk to that effect), expect off-the-hook attendance.
Don't believe me? Ask anyone who thought that the televised draft itself would never be a big deal. The NFL holds such fascination for so many, and off-season withdrawal is so cruel, that it's eminently possible that thousands of people would pay for the privilege of watching the most public job interview imaginable. They say that if you like sausage, stay away from the sausage factory, but there are exceptions. This is one.
It is an extremely regimented environment — not like the Shrine Game or Senior Bowl, where you can casually walk around and bump into potential interviewees — but with 327 invitees to this combine, there's no better way to universally put a dollar sign on the muscle. In great multiples.
So here, without further ado, are five observations after Day 1 of this 2007 combine:
1. Sharks in the water? You could say that.
The cliche with this event is "feeding frenzy," and it holds true. Whether you're a nationally ranked, big-time prospect at a high-dollar position or a Division II kicker, you'll be surrounded by media. Of course, if you're Ohio State receiver Ted Ginn Jr., the frenzy is more pronounced — it's always a kick to see the 20-yard media dash. Even more so to be a part of it.
Drew Brees should make a full recovery for training camp.
( / Getty Images)
2. The press conferences are worth the trip.
Sitting in on Saints coach Sean Payton's presser, he talked about Drew Brees' elbow injury (6-8 weeks of rehab, no pre-season ill effects) and his feelings on Reggie Bush's subsequent ankle injury in a celebrity basketball game (he was glad it wasn't August!). New Steelers coach Mike Tomlin discussed how he'll merge Pittsburgh's previous 3-4 and the Cover Two that Tomlin learned in Tampa Bay. Expect the unexpected.
A humble, soft-spoken Ginn discussed the high ankle sprain that will cut his combine process short from a testing point of view. Auburn guard Ben Grubbs chatted about the mentor/student relationship he has with former linemate (and now elite San Diego Chargers tackle) Marcus McNeill.
And this was a slow interview day. Friday, the recorders and notebooks will be a-poppin'.
3. The only Division III player invited to the combine could surprise everybody.
After a solid week of practice at the East-West Shrine Game, tight end Michael Allan of Whitworth College in Spokane, Wash., had the attention of the nation. Too small and slow for the major programs out of high school, Allan blew up D-III, gaining 15-20 pounds of muscle every year he was in college, and catching 53 passes for 1,100 yards in his senior season. He shaved his 40 time from a flat 5.0 to the 4.6 he expects to run here. The postseason showing proved he's good enough to compete at a higher level. The combine will decide, to a great extent, whether he bucks the odds and avoids having to break onto a roster as an undrafted free agent.
4. The "celebrity sightseeing:" Good Thursday, better Friday.
Any member of the NFL media you'd care to mention will be here by Friday. The morning was relatively sparsely attended, but things started to pick up in the afternoon, as more and more prospects made themselves available to reporters. There were times Thursday when you could walk around and feel that you were living inside your own television.
5. Day 1 was a blast.
Quite a thing, really, to be in a big ballroom with most of the nation's NFL media and the kids that will be the future of the NFL. Once the players hit the RCA Dome turf for the real testing (punters and kickers Friday afternoon, and the major groups Saturday morning), things become much more real. Right now, it's all hypothetical, ethereal speculation.
The very fodder of the NFL off-season.