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.
Keenan Holman, Wide Receiver, SMU
The SMU wide receivers hauled in an amazing 400 passes last year, and Holman was the team's biggest producer, averaging over 15 yards per catch and totaling nine scores in 12 games. He scored on a 79-yard completion in an October victory over Temple, so there's no doubt that once he gets rolling, the 6-1, 185 wideout can run with the best of them. His challenge leading up to the draft was to work on his quickness off the line of scrimmage. It's those first few steps that can be the difference between a big play and an incomplete pass. "You want to set yourself up for a clean catch with nobody in your vicinity," he says."I feel like I get fast as I run, so if I start fast, I can finish stronger."
Holman spent the winter working on his explosiveness from a stand-still as well as out of breaks 20-yards downfield. "You've got to be smooth in that transition, because the easier you can make the transition, the harder it is for the defensive back to recover," he says. When all of those skills come together, a receiver goes from reliable to being a big-play threat.
"I've been working with some awesome trainers who've been teaching me things I never thought about before," says Holman.
Here's a powerful leg progression Holman did on his heavy workout days:
Keenan Holman's Go-To Leg Progression
Credit: Cooper Neill / Getty Images
- Squats: 185 x 15; 225 x 10, 275 x 10, 315 x 6
- Lunges: 135 x 5 (per leg), 3 sets
- Jump squats: 3 sets of 10