Welcome to the NFL, because that's exactly the feeling that most players competing for a spot in the upcoming draft have. Despite repeated assurances from personnel bosses that the NFL Combine and assorted Pro Days at colleges don't mean much, the fact is that the measurements and readings gleaned from those few brief hours continue to carry much more weight than performance on the field. The latest to learn that lesson was West Virginia free safety Jahmile Addae, who has traveled from the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., to pre-combine workouts in Jacksonville, Fla., to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis and now back to Morgantown.
"It's extremely frustrating," said Addae of the thought that his body of work in college is overshadowed by his performance at a handful of post season combines and test sessions. "You play your whole life and spend it busting your behind, but then it comes down to just a few workouts where you have to put up a good show for the coaches. To me that isn't that fair, but it's something that everyone goes through, so you have no choice. You just have to realize how important it is, and you have to grab the chance while it's there."
To prepare himself for the events, especially the NFL Combine, Addae worked out in Jacksonville, and spoke with several people, including first-round pick Adam "Pacman" Jones as well as several current Jaguars.
"I talked to a lot of people about what to expect, but it's not one of those things you can have expectations for or really prepare for," he said honestly. "There's nothing like being there in front of all of those decision makers. It's a lot of pressure, being in front of all those general managers, and having to do any test the coaches want to give you. They want to see how you perform under pressure, and for sure the combine will test it."
The other realization that came to Addae as he began his post-collegiate career was how much the nature of the game changed. While in school, he had the support of his teammates, coaches, and support staff, but once he played his final game (WVU's 38-35 win over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl) all that went out the window.
"Everyone is out for themselves," Addae said. At the Combine and in the NFL you are playing for yourself. In college, you had teammates, but now it's different – your body is your corporation. Even seeing guys from Georgia, that we just beat, it's different. There was no love lost between us, but now it's a business. Everyone wants to make it to the NFL."
Although some doubts remain about Addae's potential for being drafted, he thinks he did fairly well at the Combine, and may have opened some doors to another position in the pros.
"I give myself a B," Addae said when asked for a grade on his performance. "I think I did well. I weighed in at 216. which was 16 pounds heavier than I ever was at WVU. I think I can play both safety positions. I do want to lower my 40 time from 4.6 to the mid-4.5s, and I will keep working on that."
Addae's potential at strong safety, with his excellent hitting ability, could be a key to getting looks from some pro teams. He was told that he can play both safety positions, and he noted that he has performed some strong safety type duties in college, which means he would not be unfamiliar with the duties of that position. And while pro teams are giving less and less feedback to players as to their interest, Addae thinks his versatility will do nothing but help him.
"In the league, they look for versatility," Addae noted. "I'll play special teams, anything I can do to help. You have to do what you can do to up your status. Hopefully teams like what I can do as an athlete.
"It's not a profession where you get any kind of bead," Addae said of the lack of information from the NFL. "No one knows where they are going except for maybe the first 5-6 picks."
After working out at WVU's pro day on Friday, Addae will continue his quest to lower his 40 time and attract more attention from the NFL's personnel department before the draft on April 29-30.