The value of the NFL Combine has once again come into question as New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick made disparaging remarks about players training specifically for the Combine.
“I think that’s a huge mistake that a lot of those players make, but I’m sure they have their reasons for doing it,” Belichick said. “We’re training our players to play football, not to go through a bunch of those February drills. yeah our training is football intensive.
“We train them to get ready to play and ultimately that’s what they’re going to do. Maybe for some of those guys another activity in between or a pro day or whatever it is, but in the end, they’re going to make their career playing football.”
While Belichick feels as though players shouldn’t train specifically for the Combine, there are many players that benefit greatly from performing well at the annual “Underwear Olympics” (also known as the NFL Combine). Some players improve their stock upwards of one or two rounds, while some go from relative obscurity to gaining favor with a team and earning an NFL roster spot.
Running back Trey Williams out of Texas A&M was able to accomplish the latter. Williams was a player not many were talking about leading up to the combine but his performance in Indianapolis left an impression on multiple teams looking for a running back.
I asked Williams about the importance of the Combine and he said, “It’s relevant because it’s a challenge, to see how you are. It’s only for like four or five days. It basically challenges you. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but would I want to go back and do it again? No not really. It’s just a challenging experience and it’s a really good test of your character.”
The NFL Combine isn’t just a test of one’s physical abilities, but it ultimately tests the players’ ability to compartmentalize. While they will be judged by their on-field performances, the schedule is what’s the most grueling part about the Combine.
“Jeremy Langford was my roommate,” Williams said. “We would talk and go over the schedule, ‘Hey we got a drug test at four o’clock in the morning? What? After that we have to go to the hospital for medicals. Then we have to go and do all of these drills and strength tests?’ It was just a lot in four days. All of this training came down to one moment and I worked my butt off for two months straight. Thankfully, God is good and it all worked out well for me. It was definitely stressful.”
Williams trained at the Athletic Performance Lab in Katy, Texas where they mentored him and got him ready for the biggest job interview of his life. Williams ran a 4.4 in the 40-yard dash and also scored well on the Wonderlic test thanks to his preparation in Katy, Texas.
I asked Williams about the Wonderlic and he said, “I was prepared for it. They had people come down and test us. It was a challenging test, but I feel like it’s not really as challenging if you know how to take a test. It’s all mental.”
In the eyes of Belichick, the Combine doesn’t hold much weight, but to some, the opportunity to perform in front of NFL scouts can facilitate earning a NFL roster spot. “It’s really easy to get overlooked,” Williams said. “I needed that combine just to get my name out there. For the most part, coaches can only pay attention to so many players. The combine gives them a closer look at the guys that are there.”
While Williams has bounced around the league in his first year in the NFL, he seems to have found a home in Indianapolis, the place he became known to many talent evaluators.
The road to the NFL wasn’t easy for Williams, but he continues to work towards his dream of becoming a key contributor on an NFL offense. As hundreds of NFL draft hopefuls ascend upon Lucas Oil Field, Williams offered advice to Combine participants rooted in his experience in Indianapolis last year. “Just keep fighting no matter what,” Williams said. “Keep fighting no matter how hard it gets for you, because at the end of the day, all the guys that you see on Sundays they did it too. If they can do it, you can do it too.”