April 23, 2013
Larry Warford didn't think he was ready for the NFL last year. Some believed he could have been picked if he had decided to leave Kentucky after his junior year, but he never even considered it.
Warford didn't put his name in the draft after the 2011 season or toy with the idea of leaving school early. There was too much left for him to learn.
"Honestly, I wasn't even debating it last year," Warford said. "I knew that I had a lot to work on and I believe I still do. I'm not a perfect offensive lineman. Nobody is. There's always something to work on. Keeping that point of view throughout my entire career at UK has helped me progress as a player and become a good one. I'm just going to try and keep that mentality and never become complacent with where I'm at."
A year later, teams have told him he could go anywhere from the second to fourth round of the draft. He's among the top-rated guards by most scouting services.
He's had to make some changes to get ready for his move to the NFL. He lost about 10 pounds while working out with former Pro Bowl center LeCharles Bentley, trying to tweak his body composition to maximize explosiveness. He's also spent extra time working on snapping the ball so he can fill in at any of the three interior line positions.
The biggest change comes in the way players approach the game. There's more at stake in rivalries than bragging rights, and competition is a major role in player's lives.
"It's a lot different," Warford said. "This is somebody's job now. Teams are drafting you to take somebody's job. I don't want to say it's not as friendly, but people have families now and they're not going to take that sitting down."
The first round of the NFL draft airs on Thursday at 8 p.m. on ESPN and NFL Network. The second and third rounds are on Friday, beginning at 6:30 p.m. The final four rounds of the draft are Saturday, starting at noon.
We'll have a full story tomorrow morning on CatsIllustrated.com about Warford's preparation for the draft and why it's taken 20 years for an offensive lineman to be drafted at Kentucky.