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NFL Draft '99

Life starts at 40

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Posted: Sunday April 11, 1999 01:57 PM


Click here if you have a question for Mike Cloud. He'll answer a question or two in each week's diary entry.

As fast as the 40-yard dash is supposed to be, the wait leading up to it is just as incredibly slow. It was the most important five seconds of my weekend at the NFL combine in Indianapolis -- people think of it as a physical test, but mentally, it was unbelievable.

The last two hours before my turn to run seemed like six years. When I finally got to the starting point, I thought to myself, "Wow. I'm finally here." You spend your whole life playing football and thinking about getting invited to the big combine with all the coaches and scouts staring at you with the stopwatches ready. Then, before you know it, you're done, and everything you worked so hard for is over.

I ran a 4.47 on a hand-held watch, and my electronic time was a 4.51. I've run under 4.4 on an indoor track, but it all balances out. To get timed like that after everything else they put you through is very, very tough. After all the running backs had finished our runs, we patted each other on the back and even gave each other hugs. We all know how we worked our butts off for that moment -- it was such a relief when it was over.

It's a different pressure from you have at a college game. With a game, you have the comfort of knowing you're part of a team and all those guys are right behind you if you mess up. With the 40, it's just you against all those electronic clocks. The good thing is you can always improve on your time. We have our first workout for scouts at Boston College on Monday, on an indoor track, so that's another chance to improve.

The weekend started for me with four hours of medical tests -- doctors poking and checking every single joint in your body. They ask about any injury you've ever had, and I think they gave me 14 X-rays. Their job is to find anything that's wrong with you and they try hard to do just that.

Everyone talks about the psychological tests, but they weren't as bad as I had thought they would be. The best question I've gotten came from the Giants' test, which I took at the Senior Bowl. "If you were to go fishing, would you feel bad hooking the worm?" it read. It's been a while since I've been fishing. Way back.

The interviews were intense. I think Mike Ditka was my favorite coach to talk with -- he seemed to know a lot about me, and when he asked me who I watched growing up, I smiled and said it was Walter Payton. I was a big Bears fan growing up. It was a lot of fun meeting the different coaches, but they're not the only ones there. Some teams had guys just there watching your body language. And there's a big camera with a bright light about three feet from your face. It's a lot more intense than the informal interviews we had at the Senior Bowl, but they're investing so much money, you can understand why they want to know every single thing about you.

Mike Cloud is expected to be one of the top running backs taken in the 1999 NFL Draft in April. Check back each Wednesday for another draft diary from him at

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