2009 NFL Draft Diary, Entry No. 3
Steroids testing was a lot more strict at combine than in college
Over lunch, Lions executives asked about pressure of being No. 1 pick
My friends still treat me like the little guy in middle school with glasses
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. You can read his first entry here and his second entry here.
I'm back resting in Charlotte now after one of the best and most important weeks of my life. Instead of spending all day running and jumping, I've just been staring at Nickelodeon, watching Sponge Bob and trying to relax my brain and my body. The combine takes a lot out of you. I'm glad it's over, even though it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.
As I talked about in my last diary entry, at Athlete Performance Institute in Phoenix, we'd been focusing primarily on improving our 40-yard dash time. That's the event that can make or break your chances in the draft. One of the first things we did after getting to Indianapolis, the site of the combine, was to watch the wide receivers run their 40. That's when I realized what a good job our coaches at API had done in preparing us, because it looked just like it should. My confidence level really peaked when I saw that and I realized I had nothing to worry about.
On Friday, our first full day there, we had to have a urine test for steroids and drug use. I had one at Wake Forest but the whole process is way more serious at this level. People are watching you and you don't get to go back in the bathroom by yourself, in case they think you'd try to cheat. I've never taken steroids, HGH or any of that stuff, and I've never been tempted to either. All the guys I know that play the game did it clean, the way it should be played. I've never even heard of anyone failing a drug test for steroids or HGH. I don't mind being tested because I know I'm not one of those guys using. It wouldn't bother me if other people were using because if they are they'll get caught eventually. Besides, the risks of using are crazy. It's not worth it. The guys that are on it, I wish them the best but I hope they learn.
Height and weight measurements came next and it turns out I'm not as tall as I thought I was. All my life I thought I was 6'3" but they said I was 6'1 7/8". That's with no shoes no socks. My weight was 254, just about what I wanted. I had been at 258 when I started at API in January and I'd really been focusing on adding lean muscle and cutting body fat over the past two months. Someone from the NFL asked me what I wanted to weigh and I always told them it didn't really matter as long as I could run fast.
That night we had our orientation meetings and at that point, it felt like, Welcome to the NFL Combine. That's when the whole process really got going. That evening we went to the hotel lobby and every team had a table with your position coach and a few scouts. We all went in there and they would just grab you and say they wanted to talk to you. Most of them haven't seen us aside from the film, so they wanted to meet us in person. We would talk to almost all of them, about five minutes each, so I didn't get done until about 11:30 that night. The best was the linebackers coach from the Tennessee Titans, Dave McGinnis. He was awesome. He said he just wanted to talk to me because he loved watching me play on film and said that because they're picking 30th, they have no chance to get me but he wished they could.
The next morning, when we got to the stadium we had to have our physical. There were about 20 people in each of six different rooms, including a doctor from each team. They were checking everything about you, including your old injuries. When we played Duke last November, I suffered a stinger in my left shoulder, and even though it felt fine just a couple days later, they had me take an MRI [at the combine] on my neck and lower back to check it out. Of course, everything was fine, but they couldn't be too careful.
Sunday we had our first stress test, the bench press. When I got to API I was only doing 19 reps at 225 pounds, but at the combine I did 25.
After that, the Detroit Lions took me to lunch. They have the top pick in the draft and were spending time away from the combine with all the guys they are considering. They had taken Matthew Stafford, the Georgia quarterback, to dinner on Friday night.
We went to a place called Palomino, across the street from the hotel, with the head coach, Jim Schwartz, and a couple of other coaches. Mostly, they just wanted to know what kind of person I am because they already know the type of player I am. They wanted to know if I could handle the pressure of being a number one pick. I told them I was willing and ready. Then they wanted to know if I was the person and player they could build a defense around. I told them I was ready to lead their defense next season. I don't know yet if I convinced them, but I think I did a pretty good job. We'll find out soon enough.
Finally, it was Monday, my running day. That was a very fun day for me. I wasn't nervous at all because I felt confident and prepared. I knew I'd run well. I just looked at it like another competition, and that's something I live for. My only goal was to go out there and prove why I was the best linebacker and the best overall player in the draft.
They don't tell you when you're going to run, so I spent part of my morning in bed watching other guys run their 40s on the NFL Network. We got to the field at 9:30 and started warming up with the strength coach from the Bengals. You didn't know what you were going to do ahead of time, so someone would just coming to your group and say, ok guys now we're going to do vertical jump, now we're gonna do broad jump.
It didn't take long though. From the time we began warming up to the run time was less than an hour. When I got to the starting line, I was saying one thing over and over to myself: 'Execute, execute, execute. Show them what you got.' There was no turning back once I got to that starting line.
My fastest time was 4.54, but my official time was 4.56, right on the mark with what I had wanted to run.
After the 40, the track meet was over and we could finally start doing the stuff that I have the most fun with: actually being a football player. They had us do positional drills, testing how flexible we are in our hips, how we open to the ball, how fast we react, testing our foot speed with how quickly we can backpedal in coverage. I felt that I had proved that I could really play ball at that level and put confidence in all the coaches who watched me.
That was it. I went back to the hotel, grabbed my stuff and flew back to North Carolina. My girlfriend, Jamila, picked me up at the airport. She had been watching me on TV during the combine and knows her football. She thought I did really well. Three of my best friends from my hometown of Fayetteville came down to Charlotte to see me, and my mom is coming down this weekend. None of those guys played football in college, but the best thing about them is that they still treat me exactly the same, like I'm still just the little guy in middle school with glasses.
I'll be back at API on March 1, getting ready for my pro day. Until then I'm just relaxing. It's the first time off I've had in a long time and it's the only break I'm taking before the draft. When I get back to API I'm gonna treat it like my pro day is my only chance to show scouts what I'm about, same intensity same focus as I had getting ready for the combine. I'm ready to tear it up again.
I'm glad to see some people have me at the top of their draft boards, but I don't pay much attention to that. I just want to go top 5, top 10. Just being invited to New York would accomplish a big goal of mine. Still, it's a great feeling to even be considered for the top pick, but I'm sure for a lot of people it's a weird feeling as well. If you tell somebody who doesn't know much about me they would probably think it's mind-boggling that someone barely recruited out of high school who went to Wake Forest would now be considered for the number one pick overall. All this is a testament to hard work and never giving up on my dreams.
Have a question you want to ask Aaron? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. He will answer select inquiries in an upcoming column.