There are 125 teams at the highest level of NCAA football. Sprinkle in a couple late-bloomers who play ball at smaller schools, and there are dozens more NFL Draft prospects from places like Hofstra (Marques Colston, 7th round draft pick, 2006) or Bloomsburg (Jahri Evans, 4th round, 2006) who, once refined, turn into all-stars.
The NFL Scouting Combine was created in 1982 to give all these athletes a level playing field. The idea was for scouts to gather raw numbers on all of those players, performing under similar conditions, in a single location. Consequently, Combine training was born as well, as players used to performing on the field suddenly had to run 40 yards, pump out bench press reps (at 225 pounds), jump as high and as far as they could, and shuffle through cones – all under the watchful eyes of NFL talent evaluators. But the poking and prodding doesn’t end there. At least a month of group (“Pro Days” on college campuses) and individual workouts (at NFL facilities) follow, as players had a second chance to confirm their numbers or improve upon them.
While these drills don’t perfectly predict a player’s aptitude for pro football, preparing for and performing them well is a huge part of the entry cost if they want to get a shot at playing on Sundays. Here’s how five NFL prospects got ready for the draft on the field and in the weight room.
Bryn Renner, Quarterback, North Carolina
Instead of jogging off the field during his final home game as a senior, capping three years of calling the signals for the Tar Heels, Renner found himself watching the second half of the season from the sideline with a broken left scapula. Luckily the injury wasn't to his throwing shoulder, but an intense rehab still followed surgery. Immediately after, Renner went to work preparing the rest of his body for the combine.
This past winter he packed on 10 pounds, improved his speed, and prepped for NFL rookie camp. His 40-yard dash time of 4.87 was eighth of 15 quarterbacks who ran at the combine, but he says his overall strength improved for the first time since high school.
"Once I got fully healthy, it was exactly what I needed it to be," says Renner, who wanted to improve his 40 time and quickness while in the pocket. "When I was in college, I felt like I was playing slower than I actually was."
College weight lifting programs, he says, are more of a one-stop shop instead of being specifically designed for the demands of certain positions. At a training facility in Irvine, Calif., he worked on strengthening his core and hamstrings, with a specific focus on the moves a quarterback makes most often.
Bryn Renner's Draft-Ready Workout
Station 1: Step Drops
- Do 5 reps of 3 and 5-step drops with resistance bands
- Then do 5 reps of each drop using a standard resistance harness
Station 2: Dumbbell Lunges
- With 35 pounds in each hand walk 25 yards up, stop and rest 30 seconds, walk 25 yards back. Do this 3 times.
Station 3: Overhead Med Ball Toss Against a Wall
With a 12 pound ball...
- Drill 1: toss it over head against the wall (10 times)
- Drill 2: chest pass against the wall (10 times)
- Drill 3: face sideways right and rotate and toss it against the wall (10 times)
- Drill 4: face sideways left and rotate and toss it against the wall (10 times)
Station 4: Sled Push
With 75 pounds on a sled...
- Push it 40 yards, stop for 1 minute, push it back 40 yards
- Do this 3 times up and back
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