SoCon Stars Ready to Tackle NFL Combine
By Russell V.
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Appalachian State's Brian Quick and Furman's Ryan Steed are anxious to prove that they can compete with the best players in the country.
The NFL Combine. It is arguably the biggest week of the year for the select few who are invited to it. It is the NFL equivalent of a job interview, only far more intense and all-encompassing, judging everything from your physical attributes to your mental capabilities and beyond.
This year, five of the best from the Southern Conference were invited to Indianapolis to take part in the Combine – Appalachian State’s DeAndre Presley and Brian Quick, Chattanooga’s B.J. Coleman, Furman’s Ryan Steed and Samford’s Corey White – all given one final shot to improve their draft stock and show scouts and coaches why they should draft them.
But for now, the players don’t see it that way. They are just honored to have been invited.
“It’s a very rewarding and thankful feeling,” Steed said. “(To be acknowledged) as one of the best players in the country, as one of the best corners in the 2012 draft, it’s a dream come true.”
“It feels great (to be) one of the top guys (at my position) in college, just to be recognized with those guys,” Quick added. “That’s a big deal to me and it’s a great feeling.”
Both Steed and Quick have done more than enough to earn their spots in Indianapolis. Steed put up incredible numbers throughout his Paladin career, totaling 38 passes defended and 14 interceptions – third and fourth-most in school history, respectively – while routinely facing the opponents’ top wideout. Those numbers don’t include the three pick-sixes, four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries or three blocked kicks he had either. This year, he became just the third Paladin to earn an invitation to the Senior Bowl, where he impressed scouts with his ability to keep up with players from the FBS.
“It’s been a great experience (playing at Furman),” he said. “Coming from I-AA, not many guys get invited to the Combine and get to be seen. Not many guys get drafted, period. So just to be one of those guys sums up my experience at Furman. I went there for a reason – I wasn’t one of the more highly recruited people coming out of high school, but I am here for a reason and I’m one of the best players in this draft I believe."
“I guess (getting invited) just means that people that make the Combine (invite) list believe I’m one of the best corners in this draft and that I should be competing with the best corners in this draft, that I deserve to be there.”
Brian Quick has rewritten the Mountaineer record book during his time at Boone. Just a glance over the receiving records and you will find Quick’s name repeated time and time again as the all-time leader in catches, yards and touchdown receptions. That, combined with his 6’3½”, 222 pound frame and the fact that he is still raw – he only played a year of football in high school, has had NFL scouts drooling for years and to go as far as to call Quick the best prospect to come out of the FCS.
Throughout all of it though, Quick has remained incredibly humble and down to earth.
“Breaking records really doesn’t mean that much (to me),” he said. “I just played hard every day, not thinking about things like that. None of them really mean that much to me. Championships mean the most. I wish we could’ve won more, but things happened. I feel like championships mean more than individual records."
“From my first year coming in, having not played football that much, and coming out and doing things I had to do, I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot. Just becoming a better player and staying focused and just getting to learn the game better. I feel like I’ve been real successful. I thank my coaches and teammates.”
All the players have spent months preparing for this moment, one that could change their lives forever depending on how fast they can run 40 yards, how far they can throw and how high they can jump, among other things.
And, depending on who you ask, it is a whole new ballgame.
“It’s a lot different,” Steed said when asked to compare preparing for the Combine and for a game.
“This is more like a track meet. A bunch of different drills I’ll have to perform at the combine. … It’s a bunch of guys running around in tights, doing drills and seeing how fast they can get in and out of breaks and stuff like that. It’s a grind, you know? Six days a week, getting ready for everything. You do all these different events: jump high, jump far. But it all comes back to football.”
Quick sees a few differences between gameday and the Combine, but says that in the end, they both come down to the same thing.
“It’s staying focused,” he said. “It’s different because I feel like it’s the NFL. It’s the highest competition. You have to be on top. You have to come in with the same mentality (as on game day). You have to study, you have to work hard and you have to work out. I’m going to have to make sure I do the right thing and limit mistakes and stay focused. Thing is, I feel no pressure. I’m going out there to do what I love to do and do what I know. So it’s just going out there and playing, having fun and enjoying the moment.”
Those looking for more information on the drills that will be run can visit http://www.nfl.com/combine/workouts, where NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock explains a few of the drills run at the Combine.
Everyone has talked with other players, coaches and agents about what to expect at the Combine. There is very little that would surprise them now. They have been watching film, working out daily, taking part in mock interviews, trying to figure out any way to separate themselves from the pack.
Take Quick for example. He seems to be very focused on not just impressing on the field, but off of it as well. He wants to show his potential future employers that he is the total package and worth all the hype, that is he as great a person as he is a football player.
“Some things are more important than showing your athletic skills because I know a lot of people that can do things just as good as I can,” he said. “There’s a lot of guys that are 6’5”, 218 pounds that can catch. You have to be different in different areas and show them that I’m different.”
All the players would love just to get on any team. They are not going to be picky. Just going from the ranks of the FCS to a NFL team would be an incredible journey and a dream come true for anyone. But are there any teams that the players may slightly prefer?
“I would say it’s the Carolina Panthers,” Quick said. “It’s close to home. I’m not saying I’d love to be home all the time, but I mean it’s a great opportunity for me to be close to home and my family.”
Steed couldn’t care less, as long as he makes a team.
“I’ll tell you this: I’m thankful to be on anyone’s team if they want me,” he said. “Number one, it’s still football. Number two, they all pay the same. … It’s an honor just to be considered to be in the NFL.”