Sapp hoping workout catches NFL eyes
Face down a Heisman Trophy winner. Check. Stand tall and excel in front of 100,000 fans rooting against you. Check. Play with some of the nation's best in the elite college football conference week-in and week-out and be near the top of numerous statistical categories. Check.
Despite facing all those challenges, Marvin Sapp's nerves were still hard at work as the former South Carolina linebacker worked out for NFL scouts at USC's annual pro day. The workout session, which featured scouts from almost every NFL team, allowed players who didn't get invited to the NFL combine to work out in front of talent evaluators before the April draft.
It's that dream of playing on Sunday that had Sapp's stomach in knots.
"That's why I'm out here. That's why I've been playing since I was nine years old," Sapp said. "Hopefully these coaches out here see something they like. I tried my best and did my hardest. It's up to them now."
After not seeing much action during the 2005 season, Sapp came on strong over the next three seasons and became of the most reliable linebackers on the team. In 2006, his 51 total tackles were the second highest on the team behind only fellow linebacker Jasper Brinkley. Over the next two seasons, Sapp stayed near the top of the team's defensive statistics as he finished in the top five on the squad in tackles each of the next two years. For his career, Sapp played in 46 games and amassed 199 total tackles.
"I thought he was a little unappreciated, but when coach (Ellis) Johnson came in he kind of opened up windows of opportunity. So I thank him for that," Marvin Sapp Sr. said of his son. "I'm very proud. It's something we've been waiting on for 16 years. He's been training for this day."
Though his on the field totals were impressive, the workout session focused solely on individual activities like the 40-yard dash and bench press. Sapp called those moments intense but fun as his only real competition was himself. Though he wouldn't give himself a grade of how he did, Sapp believes that the talent evaluators now have plenty of information to work with when talking about him.
"My perception sometimes gets misconstrued, but it's OK. I'll just let them analyze and think about what I did. I mean I have an idea, but I usually think of my performance a little less," Sapp said. "I'll just let them be the judge of that. I couldn't give you an accurate feeling. But it feels good out here. It's pretty fun competing against myself and pushing myself."
After the drills for linebackers were done, Sapp remained near the field watching his fellow teammates as they ran through their drills. Even though each of the 19 players in attendance at the pro day were competing with each other to catch a scout's attention, Sapp believed the most encouraging moments of the day came from the players cheering each other on as they worked through the drills. Though they're ex-college teammates now, Sapp hopes some of them might be professional teammates one day soon.
"Even when we're out here, we're in competition with each other. That's no secret, but we're out here pushing each other," Sapp said. "We're encouraging each other and I really like that. I like that it goes deeper."
While a shot at the NFL is not a guarantee, Sapp believes he has done everything necessary to impress the scouts and will get his shot at the top very soon. With his family's support, including mother Patricia who is ready for an appearance in a Campbell Soup commercial, Sapp knows everything is going to work out the way it's supposed to.
"I believe that if I do my best (in front of) the right people at the right time in the right places then I'll be in the right place," Sapp said.
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