Part of Mamula's success at the combine must be credited to Boston Bruin strength and conditioning coach Mike Boyle, who has tutored other high draft choices, including Eric Swann, the sixth overall pick in 1991 and now a starter with the Arizona Cardinals. Five times a week during the month before the big exam in Indianapolis, Boyle put Mamula through a workout designed to get him ready for two things: the combine and the NFL. "The combine is a test the NFL lets you cheat on, because you know all the questions before you take it," says Boyle. "And yet few people take advantage of that."
But on Feb. 10 Mamula took full advantage of it. He was poked, prodded and X-rayed, and then put on a platform in short gym shorts while 300 scouts and NFL people ogled the 231 players who took part in this year's combine.
Next Mamula took the bench-press test: Players are asked to lift 225 pounds as many times as they can. Mamula did it 26 times. The top-rated tackle in the draft, USC's 6'7", 323-pound Tony Boselli, also did 26.
The rest of the athletic tests came the next day. The first stop was the vertical jump. Mamula doesn't recall ever being as ready to jump over anything in his life. He rose, stretching an arm ceilingward. "Thirty-eight inches," the scout monitoring the jump called out. The scouts murmured. There aren't too many pro basketball players who leap higher. My god! Mamula thought. Arc you kidding me? That's the highest I ever jumped in my life. His jump ended up being seventh best at the combine.
Then he broad-jumped 10'5", a foot farther than Notre Dame wideout and track star Mike Miller and an inch farther than Colorado's Michael Westbrook, one of the best receivers in the draft. The distance was what Mamula had hoped he would do. Damn! he thought to himself without showing a shred of emotion.
Then he walked onto the floor of the RCA Dome for the 40. The artificial turf in the Dome is springy, not the fast track that players prefer for the sprint. Mamula paused to look into the stands and soak in the moment. There sat Arizona Cardinal coach Buddy Ryan. There was Miami Dolphin coach Don Shula. There was Bill Parcells, whom he'd met at a New England Patriot practice two months earlier. Parcells nodded at him, smiling slightly. A vote of confidence, Mamula thought to himself. And there was his college position coach, Deek Pollard, sitting with some old NFL buddies and bragging on Mamula.
John Teerlinck, the Detroit Lion assistant head coach/defense, got tired of listening to Pollard's boasts. So he said, "Bet you a dollar he doesn't break four-seven."
"You're on," Pollard said.
At the starting line Mamula thought, This could be a million-dollar run right here. Then he was off. One NFL observer clocked him at 4.62, another at 4.63, the electronic timer at 4.62. Teerlinck slapped the dollar into Pollard's hand. Jimmy Hitchcock, a first-round cornerback prospect from North Carolina, ran a 4.64.
Mamula ran the first 10 yards of the dash in 1.55 seconds. Washington scat-back Napoleon Kaufman ran his first 10 in 1.59 seconds.