Boys to Men: The NFL Scouting Combine

Deanna Ogle explains that to watch the NFL Combine is to watch boys become men.

When my husband announced that he was going to get up a little earlier than usual on Saturday morning to watch the NFL Scouting Combine, my first thought was “Boring!” Who wants to spend their day watching a bunch of college guys run around a stadium doing drills? That’s not interesting unless you’re in it for eye candy. However, after it being on in our house all weekend I started to see something very different: the combine encapsulates manhood and hard work.

There are people who complain that the upcoming generation expects everything to be handed to them, but the group of guys that showed up to the Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday did not have anything handed to them. They have had to work hard through college, high school, and for some, even back into junior high and Pee-Wee football. That means many of these have been working for upwards of a decade to even step into that stadium.

One of the most memorable drills during the NFL Scouting Combine is the forty-yard dash. Rich Eisen, one of the most well-known commentators for The NFL Network, ran this same forty-yard dash in his suit and tie. To compare the speeds of a full grown man versus the young guys arriving with dreams of playing professional football, Rich’s footage was overlaid with the footage of the forty-yard dash performances by Tim Tebow, Cam Newton, and one of the stars from the two-thousand twelve combine, Robert Griffin III. Even with a ten-yard head start, Rich Eisen was left far behind when the shadows of the three young football stars flew past him.

Each of the guys at combine, looking almost identical in their matching checkered Under Armour gear, has to separate themselves from the all the other guys jockeying for their same position. In some cases, it comes down to one-thousandth of a second separating them from the top performers in their category. Even a single second can drop them from looking a great player to pick up to seeming like they can’t keep up.

The combine is only the beginning of their journey. Say someone like Matt Kalil, one of the most talked about offensive tackles in the upcoming class, can separate himself from the rest. He’s performed well; he has shown that he can lift, jump, run, block, tackle, and catch better than the rest. This still does not guarantee him a spot on an NFL team in the draft. Come April 26th he may still go home without a jersey. Those ten decades of football all leading up to playing for the big leagues … gone.

In an instant, his dreams would be blown out like a match.

If players are drafted and aren’t cut during spring training, pre-season, or for injuries/bad attitudes, they will still have to work very hard and play well every day to even have a decent career in the National Football League.

These boys at the combine have to train long hours during the day to stay in shape. Just as they did in college, they will have to learn the playbook, to hear and obey their coaches and captain, and will have to learn to work well with the rest of the team. Some players, like the quarterbacks, will have to learn initiative and figure out how to lead their team best.

This is exactly what people have to learn to do anywhere else in the world.  In order to be a good person and a good man you have to work hard. You must perform well at work consistently in order to keep your job. You have to know how to listen and engage professionally with your boss. You need to maintain your skills, communicate with your spouse, and lead your family.

When that newly-graduated boy lines up and waits for the signal from the coaches to begin the drill, you can see the sweat on their brow. You can feel a tiny bit of how much the next thirty seconds their career can depend on. You can see the hunger in their eyes.

At the NFL Scouting Combine you can see boys becoming men.

Photo credit: Flickr / Monica’s Dad

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About Deanna Ogle

Deanna Ogle hails from the greater Detroit area and her work has appeared in The Good Men Project, The Printed Blog, and Provoketive Magazine. She is studying journalism and religious studies, and writes at her personal blog Soul like a Spider. Loves: carnations, iced espresso, and watching movies with her husband. Find her at Twitter, Google and Facebook.

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