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The National Football League (NFL) entry draft is the primary path for college players wishing to enter the professional game. The NFL Combine, held every spring in Indianapolis, Indiana, is a showplace for college players looking to solidify or improve their draft prospects. While NFL teams study the on-field performance of players throughout their careers, the NFL Combine provides a venue for players to be studied individually and in great detail.
Held over a period of three days, the NFL Combine is physically challenging. In addition to precise, standardized physical measurements, players undergo a battery of tests to gauge their physical capabilities. Sprints ranging from 10 yards to 40 yards measure quickness and speed. Vertical and broad jumps measure lower body explosiveness. Shuttle- and cone-based drills measure speed, body control, and endurance. The bench press, with multiple repetitions at 225 pounds, tests upper body strength and stamina. The NFL Combine also has a battery of tests designed for specific positions.
In addition to physical tests, the NFL Combine looks at the football-related mental capabilities of players. Position coaches work with players one-on-one to gauge their coachability. For positions requiring a great deal of mental agility, such as quarterback, head coaches and offensive or defensive coordinators may study game video with players to estimate the depth of their understanding of the game. Sports psychologists conduct interviews to get a sense of player personality and mental toughness.
Performing in front of the coaches, managers and owners of every professional team is highly stressful, and merely completing the process without under-performing is considered a positive achievement. The career implications of an NFL Combine performance are enormous; an unexpectedly good or surprisingly poor performance can change a player's draft positions by dozens of places, affecting potential salaries by literally millions of dollars. A number of sports consulting firms have emerged to help players prepare for the NFL Combine.
Like the article says, player interviews are also a key part of the combine. Having their character and mental toughness tested is more nerve wracking for most of the players than any of the physical tests.
Often times, these interview sessions can last hours. The more highly touted a potential draftee is, the more interviews he will likely have during the combine weekend.
Not all college football players who have declared for that year's draft can participate in the NFL combine.
Invitations are extended by the league to a very small percentage of all potential draftees. On average, even what are considered major football schools only have a few players invited to the combine.
Other players trying to be noticed by NFL coaches and general managers can take advantage of pro days. These are combine-style workouts held at most division one colleges. Here, interested NFL teams send scouts to the individual schools, and anyone who is draft-eligible from that university can participate, including those who were invited to the combine.
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