INDIANAPOLIS – Wow.
That one-word description seems woefully inadequate to describe Myron Rolle – the former Florida State safety who passed on entering the draft last year to become a Rhodes Scholar, and now is putting his studies to become a neurosurgeon on hold to give the NFL a shot.
But after his podium appearance at the NFL scouting combine on Sunday, that was the word heard over and over as he left the room: Wow.
Calling Rolle articulate definitely does not do him justice. Intelligent? Same level of inadequacy.
But Rolle is committed to convincing coaches and general managers here that he is serious about pursuing a career in football, and won’t bolt for medical school after a couple of seasons or the first time things don’t go his way.
“I want it as much as anybody who is out here right now,” he said. “I’m here to prove that by the way I can perform during the drills – running the 40-yard dash, doing the bench press and everything – competing, challenging myself and really testing my mettle in front of all 32 NFL teams.
“This is very important time for me at this stage in my life, and I’m looking forward to stepping up to the challenge.”
So, which drew the more shocked response? The one from his football friends when they learned he was going to Oxford rather than the NFL? Or the one from his Oxford mates when they learned he was going to the Senior Bowl last month and now the combine?
“I would say the people at Oxford, and the Rhodes scholarship people connected with that school,” he said. “Obviously American football is not a very revered sport there.”
That was driven home when Rolle attended the America Bowl game at Wimbley Stadium last year against the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“They were cheering and clapping for punts,” he said.
Then there was the reaction of his roommate and classmates when he was getting up at six every morning to work out and told them he was leaving to attend the Senior Bowl and combine.
“I tried to explain to them the importance of it and why I had to go through these particular events,” he said. “It still didn’t make too much sense to them. I decided to switch the topic on some United Nations topic or world hunger.”
INDIANAPOLIS – Taylor Mays hasn’t had to worry about being lonely at the NFL scouting combine. In addition to being here with 10 of his Trojan teammates, there’s also Pete Carroll – Mays’ coach at USC and now coach of the Seahawks.
“I loved to see him,” Mays, a highly rated safety who played at Seattle’s O’Dea High School before going to USC, said Sunday. “He’s a familiar face. Somebody that I dealt with for four years. Somebody I trust and love.
“It’s good to see him. It’s like seeing your dad, kind of.”
Was Mays surprised that Carroll decided to join him in the NFL?
“Nah, because coach Carroll he likes to play, he likes to compete, he won’t back down from a challenge,” he said. “So they throw a challenge in his face, he’s not going to back down from it. That’s how I see it.”
Sounds like Mays, too. “Yeah, a little bit,” he said with a smile.
INDIANAPOLIS – Jimmy Clausen has talked about narrowing his choice of college to Notre Dame and USC, why he went with the Irish and how much he still loves former Trojans coach Pete Carroll.
Well, Carroll also remembers Clausen. Vividly, and somewhat humorously.
“It really was (that close). It was either/or,” Carroll, the Seahawks’ new coach, said Saturday during a break at the NFL scouting combine. “What it came down to was – and he won’t say it – but Mark Sanchez or Notre Dame. So he made a great choice for himself.”
Sanchez, of course, was with the Trojans when Clausen was contemplating his selection. Sanchez also was a first-round draft choice by the New York Jets last year.
But the Carroll-Clausen relationship does have deep roots.
“I watched Jimmy throw when he was a ninth-grader,” Carroll said. “That’s how far back we go. He was 13. I watched all his film every year. I know the family and all of that. We recruited him all through the process.”
INDIANAPOLIS – We interrupt this NFL scouting combine blog to ponder: Call them the Indianapolis Seahawks?
The offensive line for the AFC Champion Colts has had an indelible Seahawks’ stamp on it for the past seven seasons under the tutelage of Howard Mudd, who served two stints as the offensive line coach for the Seahawks. Mudd has retired after 33 seasons in the NFL, but he’s being replaced by Pete Metzelaars – his assistant, but also a former tight end of the Seahawks.
Mudd is moving back to Washington, where he has a home in the Cascades and will be closer to two of his three children and all his grandkids.
Gone but, he’s hoping, not forgotten.
“There’s a lot about retirement that’s exhilarating,” Mudd told the Indianapolis Star. “I got to live a dream. Not everybody gets to do something they absolutely love doing. There’s more happiness right now than sadness, and yet part of me, and I haven’t completely figured it out yet, there’s a bittersweet thing – I’m glad I’m going on to the next thing and yet I’m sorrowful.
“Maybe it’s my own ego, but you wonder, ‘Will I be missed?’ And I know, that’s not really important to the whole thing, but it goes though your mind.”
Don’t worry, Howard, you will be missed.
Good quicks: Sam Bradford fielded a couple of odd questions Saturday that will live in combine infamy.
The Oklahoma quarterback is expected to be the first QB selected in the April draft – if not the first player. He showed up for his media interview session wearing a red QB1 combine shirt. Asked about the significance, Bradford smiled and explained, “It’s alphabetical, and my name is first.”
But there was an even stranger question. It involved Bradford’s Native American heritage and the possibility of being drafted by the Washington Redskins. Would he have a problem with that?
“This isn’t the place to discuss that,” Bradford said, politely.
“So you’re hoping the Redskins don’t draft you,” the same reporter asked.
“No,” Bradford said, unable to muffle another are-you-kidding-me? smile.
The Redskins hold the fourth pick in the first round and are among the teams that could select a QB.
INDIANAPOLIS – Most players at the NFL scouting combine have been reluctant to proclaim themselves the most talented player in this year’s draft class.
Not Eric Berry.
Asked that question Sunday, the safety from Tennessee didn’t hesitate before offering, “I believe I am.”
And he said it in a no-brag, just-fact kind of way.
Good enough to go to the St. Louis Rams with the first pick overall? “It is a goal,” Berry said.
Berry also will participate in all the drills at the combine, another rarity.
“Of course I’m working out,” he said. “It’s the combine. It’s not a fashion show.”
Berry should be NFL-ready, since he not only played for long-time NFL defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin last season, but played multiple positions in Kiffin’s Cover-2 scheme – free safety, strong safety, nickel cornerback, true corner, even linebacker.
What advice did Kiffin give Berry about entering the draft after his junior season?
“Monte told me that I would be a fool to come back,” Berry said.
INDIANAPOLIS – There still isn’t any definitive word on whether All-Pro left tackle Walter Jones will return for a 14th season with the Seahawks, but coach Pete Carroll said Saturday that Jones is thinking about retirement.
“We’re still waiting on a final word on that,” Carroll said during a break at the NFL scouting combine. “I would be wrong to say that I know right now. I know he’s thinking about doing the retirement thing and all that.”
Asked if there was a timeline for the decision, Carroll said, “Not in particular, but I think we might see him next week sometime. He’ll be around the area.”
Jones has continued to rehab his left knee, which needed microfracture surgery in 2008 and prevented him from playing last season.
Carroll said he’s open to Jones returning, adding, “It’s up to him now. It depends on how he’s feeling and what the doctors are telling him. He’s been working at it for a long time.
“If he was going to come back and his mind is ready to do it, I’d be excited about that.”
General manager John Schneider reiterated that there is no pressure on Jones or the team for a decision.
“He’s done enough and he’s a talented enough man that you would wait for him if that’s what he decided he wanted to do,” Schneider said. “Not having the (salary) cap this year, we’d be able to do that.”
INDIANAPOLIS – Jimmy Clausen has yet to run into Seahawks coach Pete Carroll at the NFL scouting combine, but the quarterback from Notre Dame hopes that changes.
As Clausen just explained to reporters in the media room at Lucas Oil Stadium, his choice of college came down to Notre Dame and USC – where Carroll was the coach.
“I definitely know coach Carroll very, very well,” Clausen said Saturday. “I love coach Carroll and I loved everything about SC. But Notre Dame was the best fit for me.
“But coach Carroll as a person, I love him to death. I haven’t seen him yet, but hopefully I get to see him later.”
What NFL teams want to see from Clausen are the traits – physical, but also intangible – that will allow him to step in and lead a team at the next level. He’s generally considered the No. 2 QB in this draft class behind Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford and drawing interest from teams at the top of the first round. He met Friday night with the Washington Redskins, who have the fourth pick overall; and Buffalo Bills, who are No. 9.
“I think I’m ready,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons I went to Notre Dame, was to best replicate what it’s going to be like playing big time football in the NFL as a rookie.”
Clausen won’t work out here because he’s recovering from surgery on his right foot. Instead, he’ll do his thing for NFL coaches and scouts April 7, when doctors have told him the foot will be healed.
INDIANAPOLIS – A few leftover snapshots from the first two days of the NFL scouting combine at Lucas Oil Stadium:
Remembering Walter: The status of All-Pro left tackle Walter Jones remains in limbo. He has dropped hints on his twitter account that he’ll retire, but the Seahawks have yet to confirm whether Jones will be back for a 14th season.
His former coach, Mike Holmgren, addressed the situation Friday.
“I hope he can play some more,” said Holmgren, now president of the Cleveland Browns. “I believe if I was still there, I’d be coaxing him into something. Trying, anyway.”
At one of his last news conferences as coach of the Seahawks, Holmgren called Jones the best offensive player he ever coached. He has altered that assessment.
“I did (say that), and then I got so much flack from the quarterbacks,” he said of a group that includes Hall of Famers Joe Montana and Steve Young and future Hall of Famer Brett Favre. “They all started phoning me – ‘What are you doing?’
“Walter is one of the best offensive players I’ve ever coached, yes, absolutely. And he’s the greatest lineman I’ve ever coached.”
Snooze control: The process of taking a physical, and getting medical tests, is arduous and can be draining for the players at the combine.
Just ask USC tackle Charles Brown.
“It’s not just a physical,” he said. “There are X-rays and a lot of tests – drug tests, heart tests, blood tests. Then you have to wait your turn to get all those tests, and the line is long.”
How long did it take? “I’m not sure,” he said. “I feel asleep for a while.”
He’s Golden: Is there a player in this draft class with a better name to match his college than Golden Tate?
The wide receiver played at Notre Dame, wearing a golden helmet. So, where did the name come from?
“I don’t know where it came from. I don’t know what they were thinking,” Tate joked, before adding, “I’m actually a third, so there’s two other Goldens running around somewhere.
“It worked out. I guess you could say it fits me. A lot of people say ‘Golden Domer,’ and Notre Dame was my destiny. I guess I just lucked out.”
Let’s talk: Teams are allowed to interview 60 players here, and must turn in their list of names prior to the combine.
INDIANAPOLIS – First up in the bench press at the NFL scouting combine: The big boys, who did some big things.
Arkansas guard Mitch Petrus tied the combine record with 45 reps of 225 pounds on Friday. True, the official marks have only been tracked since 2000. But 45 reps is 45 reps. Ohio State defensive end Mike Kudla (2006) and UTEP defensive tackle Leif Larsen (2000) also hit 45.
Other top linemen this year:
- Oklahoma State tackle Russell Okung, 38
- Notre Dame center Eric Olsen, 35
- UNLV guard Joe Hawley, 35
- Maryland tackle Bruce Campbell, 34
Campbell also ran his 40-yard dashes in 4.78 and 4.81 seconds, unofficially. Official or not, that’s an impressive combine of size (6-7, 310), strength and speed. His arms also were measured at 36½ inches.
INDIANAPOLIS – He speaks French, hails from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and played at Massachusetts. Oh, and smiles a lot.
And why not? Vlad Ducasse is living the American Dream at the NFL scouting combine as he takes the next step toward an unexpected career in professional football.
The majority of the top-rated offensive tackles took care of their media-room obligations Thursday, but Ducasse didn’t make it in until Friday. It’s only fitting for a player who didn’t take up the sport until his junior year in high school – after he and his brother were sent to this country to live with an uncle.
“I was walking down the hallway, and I was about 275 (pounds),” said Ducasse, who weighed in here at 330. “A couple of my friends and my coach came by and said they wanted me to try out for football.”
There’s a story that Ducasse put on his pads incorrectly for the first practice. “I don’t remember,” he said. “But I probably did.”
What was the appeal of this strange new sport? “It was fun. It was exciting,” he said. “You get to hit someone else without getting in trouble.”
Ducasse’s father still lives in Haiti, along with two uncles and a couple of cousins. All lost their homes in the recent earthquake, but not their lives.
“I’m here representing my school and representing my country,” he said. “So there’s a lot of pride.”