The NFL sends out a daily briefing to all teams every weekday, and it lists the transactions and minutiae that make up the day-to-day operations of the league. A lot of it is stuff you can read on your favorite website, but some of it is solely for the consumption of team officials.
One of the latter daily listings is for pro days for individual players. In many cases, these are obscure players from small schools. Usually, they are represented by contract advisors who are very new to the profession, and that have limited connections in the business and perhaps a limited understanding of just what most NFL teams are doing this month. There’s probably a good bit of desperation on the part of these players and their agents as they wonder if scouts will actually show up at these workouts. Most often, I don’t think teams send representatives. After all, it’s quite late to be gathering 40 times and rep totals.
At any rate, when I see these individual workouts for players, I wonder why they’re necessary. Why did this player not go to a bigger school’s pro day, or register for an NFL Regional Combine? If the player is from a bigger school, was he truly not healthy when his teammates worked out, or did he his 40 time would not be impressive time and he wanted to put off the inevitable?
I was at a pro day for an FCS school last month, and as I talked with an established agent I’ve known for a long time, we talked about his client, who was working out that day. Though his client was really the only player teams wanted to evaluate, the young man kept coming over to his agent and pointing out things that didn’t make this the perfect day. He was asked to run against a light wind twice. The conditions were a little damp. He was shortchanged on his times. He didn’t get the start he needed because his shoes were worn in the wrong places. There were dozens of similar excuses, and he wasn’t the only player that had these issues.
My friend was a little dismissive whenever his client would return with another complaint. Later, the agent explained that he was trying to get the BS out of the young man. He was trying to squeeze him a bit, to pressure him, to get him to ‘man up’ and realize that if he was truly an NFL player, he’d have to perform even when he didn’t get the benefit of every doubt. He didn’t have nearly as much margin for error as he thought he had.
Later, as I discussed a different player with one of the team’s coaches, he said that when the team faced smaller schools from out-of-the-way programs, this young man always showed up energized and looking to make a big splash, and often, he did just that. However, when the school played ‘up’ against impressive FBS schools, the young man had excuses for why he couldn’t perform that week: migraines, hamstring issues, whatever.
I know there’s a fine line to walk between being your best physically or just gutting through a difficult workout while you’re in pain or facing some strain or pull that taxes you. Sometimes, players penalize themselves when they ‘suck it up’ and hope that evaluators give them credit for playing through an injury. The point is, the truly elite players always find a way to excel, and the ones that are on the bubble find themselves on the outside looking in not because of circumstances, but because they needed every break to go their way just to make it into consideration for the league.
Let me give this disclaimer, as I often do in this space: I’m not here to rain on anyone’s parade. At the same time, if you’re a young NFL hopeful or a person who represents one, recognize that only the truly special talents make it onto the big stage. The NFL is for the great player, or at least the young man with the physical tools to be great. If you (or your client) aren’t one of those people, that doesn’t mean you’re not a very good athlete. It only means you’re part of the 99.9 percent that doesn’t quite measure up to the extraordinary standard that all NFL players meet.