As one of the more decorated Rebels from last season's 9-4 squad, departed senior Michael Oher experienced plenty over his career in Oxford.
Oher first faced the labors of three consecutive losing seasons. Ole Miss combined to win only 10 games before his senior year, with the massive left tackle left to ponder NFL dreams as a junior.
But after holding off on his professional pursuits, Oher was able to refine his skills. He gained needed strength and added burst under offensive line coach Mike Markuson, helping transform Oher into a dominant SEC lineman.
"I really feel I've become a dominant player," Oher said. "I worked hard last season and showed everybody what I can do."
Now with the draft a day away, Oher hopes his stocked resume' will help translate into millions as a professional football player.
During his stay at Ole Miss, Oher started 47 consecutive games. He garnered All-America honors each of his last two seasons and All-SEC accolades in his final three.
The Memphis, Tenn. native was named a finalist for the Outland Trophy as a senior, and was one of three finalists for the Conerly Trophy, given to Mississippi's top collegiate player.
As one of the top prospects in this year's class, Oher said there hasn't been any lack of interest.
"I'm looking good right now," he said. "Everybody's been talking about me going in the Top 10. But I don't know where I'll go. A lot of different teams have expressed interest. I've heard anywhere from five to 13.
"You hear so much stuff, but all I know for sure is that I will be in the Green Room on draft day in New York. That tells me I should go fairly high."
While he wouldn't elaborate on possible landing spots, the latest team to take notice of Oher is the Cleveland Browns.
Selecting fifth overall, the Browns could be a fit, with the departure of RT Kevin Shaffer via free agency to the Chicago Bears.
"My last workout was with Cleveland on Monday," said Oher. "They had me doing a lot of different offensive line drills. I thought it went well. They're considering me at No. 5."
Saturday will be an interesting day for Oher, as his stock has been up-and-down since the NFL combine in February.
The 6-foot-5, 318 pounder ran a disappointing 5.32 in the 40-yard dash in Indianapolis, while benching 225 a mere 21 times.
He rebounded at Ole Miss Pro Day, however, improving his numbers in front of 45 NFL scouts in attendance.
"I helped myself big time," he said in March. "I improved everything dramatically since the combine. I was trying to improve my 40 and my bench. I did both. I think I ran a 5.08 in the 40 and I went up to 25 reps in the bench."
And the progress didn't go unnoticed.
Oher has moved from a potential mid-to-late first round pick, to the top of most draft boards.
He'll be competing with other talented tackles for the rank of first selected, but Oher feels he's the best in the bunch.
"I'm just a laid back kinda guy," Oher said of dealing with the pressures of being such a highly regarded pro prospect. "I've tried to take everything head-on. I've done all I can possibly do and feel I'm the best tackle in the draft. If a team wants the best tackle, they'll take me."
Along with Oher, many media outlets have predicted teammate Peria Jerry to be selected in the first round, which would mark the first time in school history for such to occur.
"It means a lot," Oher said of the possibility. "It shows Ole Miss is filled with good players and you'll see even more good players next year. The talent at Ole Miss is better than most schools out there."
No matter where he lands, the former Rebel captain said he's finally realizing a dream.
"It's going to be big for me," he said. "It'll show that hard work does pay off. If you work hard enough, you can accomplish anything. This has been a dream of mine for so long. Now it's about to come true. I feel blessed."
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