Irish stars look to impress scouts at NFL Combine
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - The center of the football universe is in Indianapolis this week for the NFL Combine.
Five Notre Dame players are participating in hopes of leaving lasting impressions on teams that could select them in the coming NFL Draft. For them, these few days could set the tone for their futures.
But it likely won’t be fun.
"The combine is a mental and physical exercise," said ESPN NFL reporter Adam Schefter, speaking one-on-one with ABC57.
"It's grueling because you're in meetings and medical tests all day. The guys come out here, and they don't enjoy it. It's not a pleasurable experience. Taking a weekend trip to Indy for the combine sounds like it would be fun and sexy, but it's really not. They just want to get through it, and represent themselves and Notre Dame as best they can."
Offensive linemen Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson, running back Josh Adams, receiver Equanimeous St. Brown, and tight end Durham Smythe will all be put through those tests this week.
Still, the former Irish stars recognize the ultimate goal.
“Not many scouts are really worried about my 40 time," McGlinchey said. “They’re really worried about the kind of guy that I am. I’m trying to build relationships with all these coaches, show them who I am, what I’m about and what I can do for them in the future.”
Through dozens of interviews and tests, the pro teams will get a clear view of the players and their approach to the game.
“My mindset is being dominant,” said Nelson. “I want to dominate all my opponents and take away their will to play the game.”
Nelson, meeting with dozens of media members, was then asked if he’d consider himself “nasty” and his answer was simple.
“Yes. I’d consider myself a nasty player.”
There are plenty of athletic feats the Irish linemen can celebrate as well, most notably in the bench press.
McGlinchey tallied an impressive 27 reps of 225 pounds, only to be outdone by his teammate Nelson, who put up a show-stopping 35.
Both Nelson and McGlinchey are expected to be first-round draft picks, and Nelson continues to impress on a league-wide level.
“Quenton Nelson is a guy that scouts say is as good an interior line prospect as they’ve seen in decades,” Schefter said. “That tells you something about how high he’s going to go in this draft. It’ll be very high.
"Mike McGlinchey is a guy they also love. He plays tackle and that's a coveted position, but Nelson will be the first Notre Dame lineman off the board based on the opinions of personnel people.”
When asked of the high ratings, Nelson said he feels the expectations are deserved based on his production and talent.
"I should be talked [about] in the top-five conversation," he said, "because you have [defensive] guys that are dominating the NFL right now in Aaron Donald, Geno Atkins, and Fletcher Cox that have been working on interior guys. You need guys to stop them and I think I'm one of those guys."
"I give the [the quarterback] a pocket to step up in. I help establish the run through my nastiness, and establishing the run also opens up the passing game. I think I'm a good choice."
While Nelson is getting a lot of the attention at the Combine, Schefter said McGlinchey still figures to be selected in the first half of the first-round.
Beyond the offensive line prospects, the guy they blocked for in college, Josh Adams, has a lot to prove.
While he was a Heisman candidate at one point this past season, the draft value of running backs – especially one who has battled injuries – is tough to calculate.
Instead of worrying about which pick he’ll be selected, Adams said he’s taking full advantage of the week’s opportunities.
“I’m trying to get a better feel for how I can become a better player and taking criticism,” said Adams. “Taking the knowledge that each coach I meet with gives me, and using that to better my game.”
St. Brown and Smythe will take the stage as the week continues, and just like their teammates, hope this week could jumpstart a professional career.
Beyond this week, Notre Dame has announced that its Pro Day, where these five and four others will work out for scouts on campus, will take place on Thursday, March 22.