For players like Joe Ganz, Pro Day was their moment to shine. It was the moment, the opportunity, where they could prove something to NFL Scouts, who had not seen them in person up to that point. Lydon Murtha didn't have that problem. Pro Day was another opportunity, but after the NFL-Combine experience, Pro Day was just another day.
Leading up to the NFL Combine, it's a grind. You train, you diet, you cram.
It's not just about the measureables after all.
Sure, you can make or break your draft stock on what you do or don't do in the various drills, including the 40, the pro-agility and the vertical.
But there's the interview process as well.
I remember a conversation with former Husker defensive end and eventual first-round draft pick Adam Carriker, and he said that the interview process was like something he had never seen. "Some guys will just talk football to you, and some will try to get into your head. Some of the want to see if they can get something out of you," Carriker said last year before he was drafted by the St. Louis Rams. "They try all kinds of stuff from slamming books down on the table, getting in your face – whatever."
Fast forward to this last combine, and Murtha recalls that as well.
"Some talk football. Some just sit there and talk to you like they are just another guy and it's like an actual conversation. Some want to see if they can get to you," Murtha said.
I guess maybe scouts might have felt they had to "get to him", because the actual drills where players put up quantifiable results didn't slow Murtha down one bit.
Quite the opposite, in fact.
His 4.89 40-yard dash was the best amongst offensive linemen during this combine, and it was the best time in that drill for an offensive lineman the last 10 years. His 4.34 in the 20-yard shuttle was also tops, but it was just one spot shy of being the best shuttle time of an offensive lineman at the combine..ever.
Oh, and he jumped 35 inches in the vertical.
Shocking numbers to most, but for those of us who have been around Husker football since Murtha arrived from Minnesota, athleticism was never the question. So, despite the fact that Murtha said that his training regiment was different for this than it would be for a season, his ultimate results weren't too far off from what he thought he'd do. "I wasn't surprised. I know that. I didn't really do anything as far as times that totally shocked me, at least with the stuff I had trained for," he said. "I know I never really ran a three-cone or broad jump, so I guess I was surprised how well I did there. But with the other stuff, I had always been a good tester. So, I wasn't nervous."
That's how he is, basically.
Laid back. Not necessarily nonchalant, but Murtha is just one of those guys that doesn't get too high or too low over much. At least when it comes to the game of football.
Believe it or not, when he thinks back to the most grueling part of the combine, that's where his easy going demeanor actually found some critics.
Like Carriker, Murtha said he experienced a little of everything. Some talking about his impressive numbers, and how they said that you can't teach
With as much as Murtha
proved down in Indy, it
would seem he still has
something other need to
It went deeper than that though.
When teams are looking to potentially pay someone a lot of money, either through the salary, in a signing bonus or both, it's within their rights to ask whatever, do almost whatever, because they need to know that you are an investment worth making.
That manifests itself in various ways.
"That was the most challenging aspect of the combine, that being the mental part. Up here you just perform your drills, but down at the combine they do a thorough job finding everything out about you that they can," Murtha said. "They might ask you about offenses. They might have you draw up some plays, and they will bring up some subjects which might be a little sore."
Amidst the many directions Scouts and GMs came from with Murtha, he recalled one instance where he was almost getting the good cop-bad cop scenario. "I met with this scout, and he was just telling me how great of a job I did, and then I met with a GM, and he was sitting there with the position coaches, all of them looking at me and the lights were all dim," Murtha said. "Then they throw up this film of me just getting my butt kicked on the field.
"They asked ‘What is this? You call this football?'.
"They just want to see how you react."
Now with all this going on, Murtha did say that he wasn't surprised by any of it. Not due to his demeanor, mind you, but because he asked a lot of questions of his own before he ever got down to Indianapolis. "I talked to Coach Dobson and Coach Cotton, and just anyone else who I thought might know something about what goes on at these things," Murtha said of Nebraska's Strength Coach and Offensive Line Coach, respectively. "I had a pretty good sense going into it, knowing that they would test me on what I knew about the game, cut me down and told me I wasn't any good and just mentally tried to see how I'd do."
As complicated as some of the questions might have been, Murtha remembered one which was simple enough, but it could make one think about NBA star Allen Iverson's infamous press conference rant about practice.
Yes, we're talking about practice.
For Murtha it was about the game itself.
Not being an emotional sort can help you in a lot of situations. But when you are in the trenches coaches want to see a little fire, a little tenacity, even a little mean. Does Murtha have that? Can he do that? Can he flick that switch on when he steps on the field?
"They'd ask me ‘Do you love football?'. I'd answer and they would say ‘No, Do you love football?'," he said. "It's such a broad question, it's kind of tough to answer, but you start to answer, they'd stop you again and say ‘Stop with the BS, Do you love football?'.
"It's stuff like that I knew that was going to happen, because there's a huge difference where they are at versus where I am at right now. Nebraska isn't the NFL."
Fast forward to "Pro Day", and it was nothing but positional drills for Murtha, who had more than proven his athleticism down at the combine. And for his part he feels the interview process also went well. This was a pressure free environment performing in front of tens instead of hundreds and doing it on your own home field, so to speak.
But it's still part of the process. It's been part of the process since he started training in New Jersey for the combine and everything he'll be doing from now to April 25th, the first day of the 2009 NFL Draft. Murtha said that one of the biggest adjustments to the next level is just realizing that it's a business, and so while he knows he isn't looked at as just a helmet, that's almost the approach he has to take. "You aren't just a body to those guys, but you are someone they are going to potentially put a lot of money into, so they are going to do everything they can to try and make sure you are worth the risk," he said. "If someone is going to potentially pay you millions, they have every right to do whatever they can to make sure you are worth it.
"They need to know you can get the job done.
"So, I understand everything that has happened up to this point. I'd probably be as thorough as they have been, too. They have the film, so they can see a lot of what you are on the outside. The rest is to make sure what you got going on inside. Sometimes that's what really counts."