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.
Keith McGill, Defensive Back, Utah
At 6' 3", McGill is the tallest defensive back in the NFL Draft, and as scouts like to say: you can't teach height. So he already has an advantage at the position. But after finishing his final season at Utah last November, McGill wanted to work on increasing his stamina and lose some of the bulk he had picked up during the college season.
The lighter you are, the higher you can jump, and McGill was one of the top overall performers in the NFL's February combine for draft prospects, registering 39 inches in the test. He attributes this partly to dropping eight pounds (to 207) while working out five days per week with fellow draft prospects at a training center called STARS in Covina, Calif.
His trainer, Ryan Kelly, would run athletes through a tough, hour-long workout including supersets with three different movements like bench press, curls, and ropes, or from sit-ups to pull-ups to medicine ball tosses. "Everyone would be dog-tired, but at the end of the workout, he would pull out the 'secret menu,'" says McGill. "You'd be going through the workout, looking at the board to see what you had left, and then you'd look at the board again and see a whole bunch of other stuff. You're already exhausted, and it's like: man, are you kidding me?"
Keith McGill's Secret Menu (After a full hour workout, repeat each station three times)
Credit: Joe Robbins / Getty Images
- Speed rope sequence: double arm waves, cross arm waves, rope jacks (60 seconds total)
- Abs: medicine ball catch and crunch (15 reps)
- Upper body: wide-grip pull-ups (20-25 reps)