Former Hogs Hope To Make Impression

FAYETTEVILLE — Former Arkansas center Jonathan Luigs is on a low-fat diet that calls for him to give up "anything that tastes good."

There is no more fast food, and these days his meals consist mostly of vegetables and plenty of fish and skinless grilled chicken. He also meets twice a week with a nutritionist who tells him what he can and cannot eat.

As much as Luigs dislikes his new diet, his desire to get into better shape so he can make a good impression at this week's NFL Combine — and move a step closer to fulfilling his dream of playing on Sundays — outweighs his distaste for the healthier cuisine.

"I'm excited. I've been training for (the combine) since the beginning of December, so I'm kind of ready for it to get here and really kind of ready for it to be over," Luigs said. "I'm just ready to go up there and just perform."

Luigs and offensive tackle Jose Valdez are the only former Arkansas players who were invited to Indianapolis to take part in this year's combine. It's a job interview unlike any other, and it begins today. Like hundreds of other players, Luigs and Valdez hope to use the next few days to show NFL general managers, scouts and coaches that they deserve to be drafted.

Realizing that a strong performance at the combine could improve his chances of making the NFL, Valdez has been training since last month with former Kansas City Chiefs guard Will Shields to get ready for this week.

Valdez said he has gained around 7 pounds and worked with Shields on improving his blocking technique and lateral movement. It's all been done so he can perform well at the combine.

"I mean, this is it," Valdez said. "I only get one chance, and this is basically my job interview because you don't know where it could end and what can happen."

Luigs and Valdez leave today for Indianapolis, but neither is expected to wow NFL executives like former Arkansas running back Darren McFadden did at last year's combine when he ran the 40-yard dash in a blistering 4.33 seconds.

Luigs, who won the 2007 Rimington Trophy as the nation's top center, headlines a rather thin class of former Razorbacks hoping to get picked up by the NFL. And while he's not considered a first-day selection, Luigs could improve his draft status with a strong showing at the combine.

He gave NFL executives a glimpse of what he has to offer when he participated in the Senior Bowl in late January, and he has focused his efforts since then on preparing for the combine.

Luigs said he has been training at a facility in New Jersey with a small group of players, including former South Carolina linebacker Jasper Brinkley and former Arkansas State fullback David Johnson.

Much of Luigs' training was focused on getting him into better shape so he could do well in the handful of skill drills he can expect to take part in over the next few days.

"It was a lot of concentration on the drills, but a lot of what took place was eating right and learning how to get on the right diet and maintaining it," Luigs said. "So I met with a nutritionist twice a week and really tried to lean out and just get my body to where it needs to be."

With only two former Razorbacks invited to the combine, Valdez admitted it will be good to go through the next few days with Luigs, whom he played alongside for the past few years.

"I'm going to be there for him; he's going to be there for me," Valdez said. "It's to our advantage just knowing somebody there will help us out a little bit more."

2009 NFL Combine

When: Today through Tuesday

Where: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Ind.

What: Hundreds of former college football players will take part in what amounts to a six-day job interview. Players will take turns participating in several skill drills, including the 40-yard dash, the shuttle run and the bench press. NFL general managers, scouts and head coaches will be in attendance to observe the players, interview them and try to determine which ones are worth drafting.

At A Glance

2009 NFL Scouting Combine

WHEN: Feb. 18-24. TV: NFL Network.

WHERE: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis.

WHAT: The annual job fair for prospective new NFL players. For six days, players are put through a series of drills, tests and interviews with more than 600 NFL personnel, including coaches, general managers and scouts.

RAZORBACK INVITEES: Jonathan Luigs, center; Jose Valdez, offensive tackle.

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