They say the NFL combine is about 20% physical and 80% mental.
Take Georgia cornerback Brandon Boykin. He said that for him, things started Saturday with a hospital visit for examinations followed by a meeting, and then on to the “train station” (the area inside an Indianapolis hotel in where NFL prospects meet with teams). Sunday began with more medical exams including a blood and urine test followed by a media session. He will take to the field Tuesday for drills.
It’s a grinding weekend that will tire any athlete, and without the right mental training, the weekend could seriously hurt a player’s draft stock. That’s why maturity is so important.
Boykin was close to leaving Georgia after his junior year. The team was coming off a 6-7 season which was the program’s first losing season in 10 years. He talked with his coaches, family, and friends, and ended up staying for his final year which proved to be a great decision.
“It ended up being the best year imaginable both for my team and me personally,” Boykins said. “We went on a 10-win season. We went to the SEC championship. It was definitely the most memorable year that senior year.”
Boykin will likely be drafted in the second round in what has been described as a very deep draft class as far as cornerbacks are considered. In 2011, he had 55 tackles (11 for a loss), 3 interceptions, 9 pass deflections, and 2 forced fumbles. If anything, sticking around for his senior year made his draft stock rise.
Boykin has even been talking to his younger teammates about sticking it out.
“I’ve been trying to encourage my teammates a lot,”Boykin said. “A lot of people were actually thinking about coming out this year as juniors. I kind of helped them realize the impact of that senior year that you won’t get back.”
Unlike Boykins, USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil declared for the draft after his junior year. He is expected to be a top 5 pick in the draft.
“Being a tackle coming out of USC, and being as highly regarded as I was…sitting down with my brother (Ryan Kalil who was drafted by Carolina in ’07), sitting down with my dad, and they basically told me that if you’re going to be a highly valued prospect, it’s definitely the time to come out,” Kalil said. “I’ve done all I could at SC. I think it was definitely time for me to move on and take my skills to the next level.”
At 6’6″ and 306 pounds, Kalil excels as a run blocker and he has good lateral movement as a pass blocker.
If people are projecting you as a high first round selection, you have to come out a year (or more) early.
For both Boykin and Kalil, exceeding expectations is the goal, but managing nerves is more important.