2009 NFL Draft Diary, Entry No. 2
Pre-combine focus has been mostly on the 40-yard dash
Valentine's Day visit from girlfriend was welcome distraction
In addition to 40 time, team interviews also vital at combine
As a walkup to the NFL draft on April 25, SI.com writer Ted Keith has arranged to get diary entries from Aaron Curry, an All-America linebacker at Wake Forest who is projected to go high in the first round. In them, Curry will talk about his preparation for the combine, his workouts for NFL teams and his hopes and fears leading to and including draft day. You can read his first entry here.
PHOENIX -- As the NFL Scouting Combine has been approaching, I haven't been nervous, but I have been getting increasingly anxious. It's the same feeling I get the week of a game. I'm ready for it and I'm prepared and ready to put on a show but I'm trying to make sure I don't overanalyze the whole process. Right now the people at API [Athlete Performance Institute] want us to think about how well we're going to perform but they don't want us overworking ourselves, they want to make sure we're peaking at the right moment.
The most important drill for us is the 40-yard dash -- it can make you or break you and that's more or less all I've been working on all day long. I've mostly been focusing on my stance and my start. Once you get the start down you just go as fast as you can. When I got here and did my pre-test I ran a 4.6, but since then, the trainers won't give us our times. They don't want us to run a good time and then become complacent.
I do feel faster than I did at Wake Forest. I feel more explosive, more fluid in my hips, more flexible. Every time we do a lift we do a stretch with it to increase our flexibility and range of motion. I see a stretch therapist twice a week, and she was very surprised how flexible I was from the very beginning, but there's still room for improvement. She stretches the whole body but for me she focuses on my hips. We'll do different stretches that take about 45 minutes, all related to opening up my hips: my quads, hamstrings, calves, glutes, hip flexor. It doesn't hurt, it's actually rather relaxing.
The speed coach then helps you try and shave those crucial fractions off your time. Joe Gomes, the speed coach, is very sophisticated. He knows all the small techniques that can take you from a 4.7 to a 4.6 or a 4.6 to a 4.5. My biggest thing was gaining ground on my first step making sure I don't have any false movements. He wants us to get what we call nice and tight and get ready to fire out of the box. It's more mental than physical; they call it pre-tension. That first step is where players can gain or lose the most time.
All the speed guys are really fast, all those receivers and corners. Darius Haywood, Vontae Davis and those guys have got all the techniques down pat. We're always joking, I'm always telling them I'm willing to race them at any time. They need to put their money where their mouth is but they just say wait until Indy. I'm close to all the guys out here, especially Brian Orakpo of Texas, because we do everything together. I feel a bond with all these guys. Right now we're all talking about the combine and making sure we're all focused. The biggest thing is to make sure when we get out there we're a family and we're getting hyped just like a team would do. We think about it as judgment day for our careers.
I've tried to relax away from API when I can. My girlfriend, Jamila, came out here for Valentine's Day. She got in on Friday. After she watched us work out that day at API, we just stayed in and watched Step Brothers. It was hilarious but we fell asleep toward the end. Saturday, as part of her gift, I sent her to a spa for the day. She got a Swedish facial, a full-body massage, manicure, pedicure, the works. Then I picked her up from there, and we had an early dinner at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse. She deserved it for being apart so long and hanging on with me. That night we went to the movies and watched Uninvited -- it's about a girl who's kind of psychotic. Not exactly a love story, but Jamila was cool with it. She wanted to see Friday the 13th, but it was sold out when we got there.
On Sunday I had the day off, so after we ate breakfast and I took her to the airport, I just went back to my apartment and slept all afternoon. My brother, Christopher, came out here for NBA All-Star weekend but I didn't go to any of it just because the combine was so close and I wanted to keep my legs and didn't want to do too much walking around. I actually forgot all about the game because I was focused on spending time with Jamila and thinking about the combine.
I'll be in Indianapolis from Friday through Monday. The first day is all medical. We visit the hospital, do all our exams, MRIs, visit with team doctors and then in the afternoon you interview with teams. Second day is measurement and bench press. Third day is rookie association meeting and more team meetings. My last day, Monday, is my day to run.
There's such an emphasis on your 40 time. It's obviously important, but I think other things -- how you play in games, how strong you are, how skilled you are, how smart you are -- should matter more but they want fast players. I believe my film shows that I'm a pretty good linebacker and I can play any position in any scheme. I want to show them I'm just as fast, if not faster, than they think I am. If a team wants to know why they should draft me, I would tell them I weighed in at 255, there aren't too many guys at 255 or better that can run a 4.6. I know I can take down any ballcarrier.
Of course, the interviews are really important, too, and the word is that it's kind of unpredictable. You could finish a drill and a team will just pop up out of the blue and ask if they could interview you and then there's going to be times where you know you're going to an interview. The biggest thing is to not crack under pressure, always find a way to turn a negative into a positive, just like in a regular job interview. The folks at API definitely make sure we know all the good stories and bad stories about how they preformed and how they did in interviews. They acknowledge that scouts and coaches are going to try and put us in situations to see how we react under pressure. They want us to remain calm and be relaxed. The won't mention anyone by name who didn't do well, but they said people like Patrick Willis and Matt Ryan did great in their interviews, and that those are the guys we should emulate because they were very business-like.
I miss just putting on a pair of pads, and it's hard to believe I won't get to do that for a couple more months. But it's exciting to think how close I am to realizing my goal. Phoenix was really excited about the Cardinals run to the Super Bowl, and even though I fell asleep during the game, being here in that environment leading up to the game gave me goosebumps. To think that later this year I could have a fan club or be in a city where you have the support of 80,000 people every game is amazing.
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