Combine First-Timer, Day 6: Clowney, Sam and jammed doors
I almost didn't make it to the NFL Combine on Monday. The bathroom door in my hotel room jammed and I was locked in. As much as I pushed and pulled, the door was stuck to the frame. I was without a phone to call for help, and if things became truly dire the only thing I had to eat was a tube of toothpaste. I also suffer from claustrophobia, which wasn't helping the situation. I yelled out a few times, but no one was within earshot. After a few minutes, I used all the brute force I still had and finally pulled it open. I was a free man.
I somehow made it to Lucas Oil Stadium, but the throng of media from the weekend was long gone. Our photo and feature sets were disbanded and this was what was left.
Down below on the field, linebackers and defensive ends were running through drills. When you're down on the field with individuals who are that much bigger than you, it feels like you're in "Honey I Shrunk the Kids." Talk about intimidating.
The most animated of all of them was Jadeveon Clowney. Like I've mentioned before, Clowney is a convivial, Shaq-like persona who draws people in. It's scary to think about what he'll be doing in the NFL next season with his size, strength and speed.
I also ran into Dominque Easley, the defensive lineman from my alma mater, the University of Florida. Before an ACL injury ended his 2013 season, Easley was a likely first-round pick. He spoke to me about his frustration with the injury, but also how excited he was to get back on the field and showcase his skill set in his Pro Day. The only activity he could particpate in at the combine was the bench press. But he was excited about getting to the next level.
The other linebacker who everyone was watching was Michael Sam. Sam was all business, and showed off his leaping ability in the broad jump.
Somehow, I also got a chance to ask him a few brief questions.
You could see the focus he had at succeeding at the next level.
I haven't had much of a chance to chat with the folks of Indianapolis outside of those working at the hotel and at Lucas Oil Stadium, but that midwestern charm was still apparent. Everyone was sympathetic to my inability to navigate my way through the stadium. I can't recall how many times someone politely showed me where to go and how to get there. I've never been called "dear" so many times from people other than my wife.
One of the most interesting people I met was Virgil, the security guard. He's worked over twenty combines, and had some great stories, including my favorite about one occasion when a group of people "snuck" into the event a few years ago. Apparently, a group of foreign tourists sightseeing around Indianapolis saw an open door at the old RCA dome and walked in. They had no idea what was going on. Virgil still laughs when he tells that story.
This is Virgil, the gatekeeper of the field.
My body was still sore from my impressive performance in the 40-yard-dash on Sunday. I may have to create a make-shift ice bath in my hotel room tonight.
Alas, on Tuesday, the party ends. The conclusion of the combine is upon us. I'll be there, but first I have to make sure I don't get stuck again.