By Kate Arhar // @ClvlndK8
This weekend, all eyes in the football world are on the NFL Combine taking place in Indianapolis.
300 College players were invited to participate in drills and get measured so that Top Executives, Coaching Staffs, Player Personnel Departments and Medical Personnel from all 32 NFL teams can evaluate them. These players are all hoping to make a good impression this weekend so that, along with their game film, will get them drafted into the NFL in April.
I spent some time this afternoon talking with a few of the defensive linemen that are here for the Combine and will be working out tomorrow.
Chase Winovich (Michigan) – EDGE Rusher
6’3″ tall … 256 lbs … 32 3/4″ wingspan … 10″ hands
When it comes to how teams view Winovich, he said hopes they recognize his hard work and the fact that he never takes a play off. He says his physical fitness and mental toughness help him get through any fatigue.
This young man from Pittsburgh says he hopes to be a role model for the kids at his former high school. While there were great athletes that came back to help coach and mentor Winovich and his fellow football teammates, none who had NFL experience so the Combine provided some new challenges for him as far as getting prepared.
He said that [running back] Marshall Faulk was his favorite player as a kid.
His older brother, who played football for Bowling Green State University once told him “no matter what happens on the field or on a basketball court, they can never take away your hard work or your passion for the sport.” These words have stayed with him and help shape his work ethic.
Chase had a great presence at the podium, seemed very comfortable answering questions. At least until he was asked about the Clay Matthews comparisons. He seemed a bit sheepish when he replied that he dreamed of them doing one of those Jack Links Sasquatch commercials together. He was very personable and seems a really likable young man.
Jachai Polite (Florida) – EDGE Rusher
6’3″ tall … 258 lbs … 32 5/8″ wingspan … 9 3/4″ hands
Polite credits his versatility with his success at the collegiate level, and appeal to NFL teams. His ability to get after the quarterback as a pass rusher seems to be instinctive as his movements on the field have a fluidity you don’t usually see with his speed.
He has an explosive burst that takes QBs to the ground, which highlights his ability to transition from making the speed move across the line into flipping his hips to cut off the edge and wrap up his target. He hopes that this versatility and energy will make him an attractive prospect to NFL teams.
When I asked him what his “Why” was, as in why did he want to play NFL football, his answer was simple. “My Twitter handle.” I asked, “what is your twitter handle?” He said “@RetireMoms.” With a little encouragement, he went on to say that she is his everything. That if he could have a career in the NFL that enables him to take care of her, it would be a dream come true. He was a bit emotional as he told us “she works two jobs, she grinds, she taught me to work hard. She’s just my everything.”
Christian Wilkins (Clemson) – EDGE Rusher
6’3″ tall … 315 lbs … 32 1/2″ wingspan … 9 3/4″ hands
A football player who got his degree in 2.5 years? Then went on to get his Masters? You’re kidding, right? WRONG! Clemson’s Christian Wilkins, who has one of the best smiles in the room, may also be one of the smartest athletes I’ve ever interviewed.
When asked what alignment he was best at, here is his answer:
His family and coaches always stressed to him that it wasn’t enough to just be a good athlete but you have to be a good, well-rounded person. He studies football film with the same passion and attention that he did his academic pursuits. Even now that school is over, he still reads and watches film to keep his mind sharp.
He believes that he can improve the attitude of any locker room that he enters, and he has a swagger and confidence that was backed up on the field. His smile was infectious as he talked of the other four Clemson defensive linemen who were participating in the Combine. They haven’t seen each other since the parade. He said it’s been really great and makes them all feel like it’s just a regular work out with their friends.
Talk NFL Combine with Kate on Twitter // @ClvlndK8