For a few days at the end of February, the NFL Combine brings the football world together once again. Folks can’t seem to get enough football.
Every year some hopeful player will emerge and capture the eyes of the nation with their Combine performance. This year, several Arkansas players made the trip to display their talents.
Former Razorbacks Chris Gragg, Cobi Hamilton, Alvin Bailey, Knile Davis and Tyler Wilson made the trip to Indianapolis for the event. Davis ran a 4.37 40 yard dash and did 31 reps on the bench press, each of which is good for second best among running backs.
Hamilton ran a 4.56 40 and managed only 11 reps on the bench press.
Does the NFL Combine ultimately prove as the major factor on where these guys are drafted?
Many coaches and general managers tend to put more stock into their college film and pro-day’s than the combine, but it still is an important first step to begin some relationships that could get these guys where they want to be.
ESPN’s Chris Mortenson said Sunday morning that the Combine is more of a tool to find players who aren’t already being talked about. Many people already know so much about the publicized players, but now individuals are able to explode into the conversation thanks to the increased exposure the Combine now possesses.
Arkansas hasn’t always been a factory to produce top draft picks, but the increased amount of players participating this year is good for the program. Recruits can now begin to look at Arkansas as a place that can not only further their education, but allow them a good shot to play professional football.
New head coach Bret Bielema has a very good track record of getting players to that next level in their life.
Another thing the Combine has added this year will also help the process. The new Player Assessment Tool (PAT) has been designed to give a fair and sound evaluation of the mental aspect players will need to have to succeed at the NFL level.
Along with the Wonderlic test, this could be a very important aspect in evaluating players that want to become a member of the NFL.
Arkansas players should also be prepared for this new testing system. These players have to be very accountable and mentally tough to survive in the rugged Southeastern Conference, more specifically the SEC West. Players that are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to impress an NFL team will be more than ready to deal with the process surrounding it.
The Combine allows Hog fans, along with people all across the nation, to see the hard work all these players continue to put in long after the season ends. It has become a circus in the way players are evaluated, covered and discussed before being drafted.
Arkansas fans can be proud of the fact that these guys are being invited to these events, as it could mark the beginning of more in the future. Programs must start building from somewhere. Arkansas has struggled to get over the middle of the pack hump in the SEC, and Bielema will try to break that seal and give the Hogs the blueprint to become a feared program.
Zack Wheeler is a writer for the Arkansas Traveler. His column appears every Tuesday. Follow the sports section on Twitter @UATravSports.