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Friday's Combine notebook

Pro Football Weekly
Chalk this up as knowledge for Redskins’ Griffin
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Chalk this up as knowledge for Redskins’ Griffin

Updated Feb. 24, 2012 @ 11:07 p.m. ET

Griffin, Luck show poise in passing initial media test

INDIANAPOLIS — This is the draft of Luck vs. RG3, even if it's all but etched in stone that Andrew Luck will be the No. 1 overall pick. Like their playing styles, their press conferences showed contrasting personalities, though both displayed a good recognition of what is at stake and poise at the podium.

"I guess this is really official now," Robert Griffin III said under his breath as he took the stage. The former Baylor quarterback was considered the consensus "best interview" at the Combine. He drew several laughs, starting from the get-go when he showed off his "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" socks.

"It's to show I'm comfortable with who I am; I'm comfortable in my own skin. The socks are just a representation of that," he explained.

Griffin's height was a big mystery heading into the Combine, with reports surfacing that he would measure below 6-foot-2. He came in at 6-foot-2 3/8, something that he reiterated, showing his sense of humor.

"We didn't lie about my height. In high school, I was 6-4, 200 pounds. Then I got to college and I shrunk an inch and gained weight. I guess they thought I shrunk some more," he said, often emphasizing the "three-eighths" part of his measurement.

For Luck, the architecture major, he was asked not about his socks, but whether he had checked out real estate in Indianapolis.

"Nah, it's a little premature to do that, I think."

"The Manning Question" has been the story of the offseason, and it's no different for the draft's top quarterbacks. The one chosen first overall will either start for the Colts, who went 2-14 last season, or wait in the wings and hold a clipboard for Peyton Manning.

"I would embrace it. It's not very often you get chances to play or be on a team with a legend like that and learn from a guy like Peyton," Griffin said. "It would be an honor to sit behind him and learn. I'd hold that clipboard with pride."

"If I had the opportunity to learn from a guy like that, of course you're going to take advantage of it. Absolutely," Luck responded when asked about about sitting behind Manning.

For Luck, many of the questions revolved around the Colts, and you can't say he lives under a rock. He said that he met with Colts QB coach Clyde Christensen and discussed Luck's potential future relationship with Manning — the player he will replace, or be mentored by.

"I understand (replacing Manning) is a possibility. Peyton was my hero growing up. He was my football hero. That's who I modeled myself after in high school, middle school, whatever it was," Luck said. "You never truly replace a guy like that. And who knows what happens? I'm not thinking about it too much right now."

Luck is well aware of the perceived awkwardness of Manning's situation and how it affects the future No. 1 pick.

"I understand the questions have to be asked. It's part of it. I understand it's speculation. In my mind, too, nothing's happened yet. I haven't been drafted by any team, and obviously with Peyton, that's still going on with the Colts," he said. "It's not uncomfortable."

Griffin said he had not met with the Colts yet, but they also had not told him they wouldn't draft him. "I'll just take it that way."

When it comes to Manning's future, Griffin hopes that the future Hall of Famer finishes his career in Indy.

"I'd like it to stay Peyton's picture, but I'm not going to be a politician for that," he said about the giant photo of Manning outside Lucas Oil Stadium. "It would be amazing for him to stay in Indy and play out his career, or (for me to) be drafted here and play behind him."

Griffin fielded more questions about the Browns than the Colts. Cleveland holds the fourth overall pick and has been rumored as a candidate to trade up to select Griffin No. 2 overall.

"It would be fun to compete with Colt (McCoy). I played him one year in college, and he beat us. Maybe I'd have to go out there and beat him. Other than that, it would be an honor to go to Cleveland, to go anywhere," he said.

The stars of the draft had high praise for one another, as well.

"Andrew's a great guy, a great college player," said Griffin, who was recruited by Stanford.

"It's fun to watch, fascinating," Luck said about Griffin's game. "He's athletic, he's explosive. Can make a lot of throws. He's very fun to watch."

Both players chose not to throw at the Combine, and the similarities didn't end there. They expressed a desire to be the No. 1 pick, but not at someone else's expense, necessarily.

"As competitors, we both want to be the best," said Griffin. "I'd be a fool to say I don't want to go No. 1 in the draft. I do. Andrew does, Matt Kalil does, Trent Richardson does. You ask any of them; they want to go No. 1. That's the main reason. It's not that I think they should not pick him or they should pick me. We all want to be the best, so I'm not going to sit here and say I don't want to go No. 1."

"Everybody wants to be No. 1, but not at the expense of another person," said Luck.

A team will draft Luck or Griffin with the hope that he can become a franchise quarterback, but one of the biggest differences between the two may be in their expectations. Luck is considered one of the most NFL-ready quarterbacks to come out of college in decades. The ceiling is high for Griffin, too, but not that high.

"It's obviously flattering when people have nice things to say about you. But I realize, at the end of the day, it's an opinion," Luck said. "Not to discredit or discount any of those opinions, but they sort of have to flow off your back like water. The game can change so quick. You can get caught behind, whatever that may be. I can't pay attention to it."

But are the expectations too high?

"No, I set fairly high expectations for myself. I don't really get involved in what other people set for me, per se, aside from my parents, family, people I truly care about."

The two quarterbacks were honest, poised and impressive as they got pelted with questions from the NFL media. They even had a little fun at the expense of some of the reporters. When asked about his parents, Griffin didn't realize the question had been completed. "That's the end of the question?" he said, drawing laughter.

Luck didn't have the overall comedic performance to match Griffin, but he ended his press conference on a high note. When alerted the next question would be the final one, a reporter asked if Luck's beard was making a comeback.

"That's the last question?" Luck responded with a smile. "Who knows?"

There is plenty that will go into the decision to draft Luck or Griffin, but teams can check one thing off the list, as both quarterbacks survived their first experience, of many, in getting barraged by the NFL media.

— Kevin Fishbain

Follow Kevin Fishbain on Twitter

 

Blackmon tackles speed questions at Combine

Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon could be the top wide receiver drafted this year, and he's not expected to last long when teams start making their picks April 26. He's projected to be among the top 10 players selected in the first round, and could go as early the top five, even though evaluators consider his top-end speed only average and his height just ordinary.

Both his speed and height were topics he addressed during his session with the media at the Combine on Friday.

Blackmon said he measured in at 6 feet — an inch or two shorter than he had been listed — and he announced he would not run in Indianapolis because of a hamstring tweak he suffered last week.

"I was actually planning to run the day before I got here, but I listened to the people who were thinking of (my) best interest and I decided not to," Blackmon said.

He'll run at his March 7 pro day instead and said he will participate in just a handful of drills at the Combine, running shorter routes, but "nothing too opened up."

"I'd like to run a 4.2, but I know that's probably not going to happen," he said. "I know I'm not slow, so I'm going to get out there and I'll probably shock a few people."

When asked whether he was shocked after he was measured at 6 feet, Blackmon said not at all.

A general manager who will be taking a hard look at all of Blackmon's attributes is the Rams' Les Snead, with the Rams having a glaring need at receiver and the No. 2 overall pick this year. Snead downplayed Blackmon's measurement as an issue when we spoke with him in the media center Friday.

"I think, if you've been in the NFL a long time, you know media guides usually stretch the limits, but what we train scouts to do — whether it's speed, ability, hands — is go back to the film," Snead told PFW. "If you thought he was a very good player before the height was measured, you should still think that. If you thought he was only an above-average player, you should still think that after the height (is measured)."

Snead, who was hired in St. Louis earlier this month, has experience when it comes to evaluating the top WR talents available in a draft. He previously served as the Falcons' director of player personnel and was involved in the decision-making process leading up to Atlanta's bold trade in the first round last year, which put them in position to draft WR Julio Jones sixth overall.

The Rams are mulling their options, including trading down, with the No. 2 overall pick, but they still could be in a position to land Blackmon.

"(Blackmon's) going to be a top player in this draft," Snead said. "I'm not ready to say (if) he's better or worse than Julio."

— Dan Parr

Follow Dan Parr on Twitter

 

Richardson ready to follow in ex-teammate Ingram's footsteps

The football people in the know agree that no running back in the upcoming draft comes closer to being the total package than Alabama's Trent Richardson.

As was the case with Mark Ingram, the Crimson Tide's previous featured back, who was drafted late in the first round last season by the Saints, Richardson is expected to waste no time making his mark at the pro level.

Just ask him.

"When it comes down to it, I'll be the dude that's on the field getting the ball on 3rd-and-3 or 4th-and-1," said Richardson in a late Friday-afternoon interview at the Combine. "I can bring you a little-league tape and show you that I have never been caught from behind. If anyone wants to question my speed, just look at the tape.

"Everybody knows I can run the ball. A lot of people try to find a negative in my game, but there aren't too many negatives that I have."

A lot of pro scouts and coaches would no doubt love to see Richardson show off his jets in the Combine 40-yard-dash drills, but that's not going to happen due to a lateral meniscus injury that will keep him from strutting his stuff.

"I'm very disappointed I can't do the stuff here that everybody else can do," said Richardson, who averaged an impressive 5.9 yards per carry while rumbling for 1,679 yards and 21 TDs (24 total) this past season on the road to a national championship. "In college, it irked my nerves when I heard guys say they don't want to do this and that at the Combine. That's something that you dream of and want to do your whole life, and being a college football player and a competitor, I always wanted to come to this and show all my skills.

"That's what the top guys do."

Richardson is planning on participating in the non-running drills and still making a major impression. When asked what he was hoping to lift in the bench press, he wasn't afraid to aim for the loftiest of goals.

"Whatever the running back record is," he replied.

In addition to claiming that he never has been caught from behind, Richardson matter-of-factly bragged about his ability to hold on to the ball.

"I don't fumble," he said. "That's one thing that I do not do."

When asked what pro backs he admired the most, it wasn't surprising that Ingram was the first player Richardson mentioned.

"We talk pretty much, and I was always his biggest critic, and he's always my biggest critic," Richardson said. "When it comes down to it, it's all out of love, and we're just being competitive and being football players, just showing each other, 'Hey, I'm still on top of you when you're playing, and I'm still going to be looking out for you.'

"We really don't compare ourselves. Both of us run hard, and both of us just want to play the game of football and put our best effort forward. I have no negative to say about his game, and I'm pretty sure he has no negative to say about my game. When it comes down to it, we kind of play alike, but we don't. I think he puts more moves on people than what I would do. His vision for the game is crazy, when it comes to just seeing the hole right and seeing his one-cut move, and that's something that I have to work on this year."

Richardson implied that he might be a bit more of a physical back than his 'Bama buddy. "I love contact," he said. "I'm not saying that he don't love contact, but I think when it comes down to it, nine times out of 10, I'm going to hit you."

Richardson apparently has been a big hit on the interview scene with NFL teams earlier this week.

"I've probably talked to every team except like five," he said, specifically mentioning the Browns, Buccaneers, Redskins and Colts. "I talked to so many I can't even tell you how they feel."

Richardson said his combination of physical and mental toughness is a byproduct of his collegiate breeding ground.

"Our coach's name is Coach (Lou) Saban," he said. "If you come in without mental toughness, Coach Saban will make sure you have it. When it comes down to it, you have to have a mental toughness just to play at Alabama. If you're weak-minded, I don't think you'll last out there, because of the repetitions that we do and how hard we work out and just the fact that we all want to be winners."

PFW draft expert Nolan Nawrocki believes Richardson should easily be the big winner among his RB counterparts come late April, tabbing him to be selected 11th overall by the Chiefs in his most recent mock draft.

Richardson, it would appear, wouldn't expect anything less.

— Dan Arkush

 

Oregon RB James convinced he'll translate just fine in NFL

LaMichael James is fine with being different. Slightly smaller than most running backs, coming from an offense that ran slightly faster than most attacks, James is comfortable with where he stands. Even if it is in Eugene, Ore., another odd choice for a Texas-born runner.

"You just go," James said. "You got to take a leap of faith. I don't want to be like everyone else. I wanted to be different. I didn't want to be like, 'Yeah, you went to Texas; you went to OU.' That's what everybody does. I just wanted to be different."

Concerns about James have centered on his stature. He stands just 5 feet, 8 inches tall and weighs only 194 pounds, but he told the media at the 2012 NFL Combine that he has gotten stronger. As for whether he plans on bulking up in the future, James said that at some point he just has to play his game.

"I just got to go out there and continue being me," James said. "Whatever weight I was before, it got me this far, so I don't think I need to go out there and change too dramatically."

Another concern centers on whether James will be able to make the adjustment from Oregon's fast-paced offense to a more standard NFL offense. James admitted that the slower pace of the NFL might be weird for him at first.

"I'm so used to running plays in just about a second that anytime we have to huddle or go really slow is probably going to feel awkward for me for a little bit," James said.

Although Oregon may have run an unusual offense, the Ducks faced plenty of elite defenses, a fact that James believes left him well-prepared for the NFL.

"There's a lot of great defenses around the country in college football," James said. "Somebody is going to have your number. At the end of the day, someone is always going to be bigger; someone is always going to be stronger. Everything is not going to go your way all the time, but you got to do your part. That means that if they're keying on you, you got to get hit a couple of times or pass-block the whole game. It is what it is. You can win games and contribute without just getting the ball the whole game."

Against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl last season, James strutted his stuff to the tune of 159 yards on 25 carries. That made up for a somewhat disappointing performance against Auburn in the 2010 BCS national championship game. James said that it's important to learn what's it like to struggle against an elite defense before entering the NFL.

"With the NFL, you're going to be going against the best defenses every week," James said. "Everybody was the star of their high school or college team, so you're going to see that every week."

An occasional special-teams weapon at Oregon, James said he would be open to rejoining a special-teams unit. In fact, he seemed open to practically anything on Friday.

"I feel like i'm an every-down back," James said. "I feel like I can do anything, I can be an all-around back. If you got to take him out on third down, I can run the ball. I can probably throw the ball, too. I can play all special teams. If they ask me to kick the field goal, I can probably do that, too."

It's hard to find a running back who put up better numbers in college than James did. As part of Oregon's record-setting attack, James rushed for 1,805 yards and 18 touchdowns his senior season, his third straight campaign of at least 1,500 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns.

With such a staunch résumé, James knows that as different as he appears to most, he's not all that far away from being an NFL running back.

"It'll be just fine," James said. "Those players that played on Saturdays, they played on Fridays. They progress and they start playing on Saturdays; they're going to play on Sundays. It's the same thing. You just got to go out there and compete. Those are the same guys. They got a little bigger; I'm going to get a little bigger. They got a little faster; I'm going to get a little faster."

— Jonah Rosenblum

 

QB Cousins makes classy impression

Considering how well Kirk Cousins came across in his interview with the national media early Friday afternoon, one would have to assume he also probably made a pretty solid impression in his meetings with various NFL teams this week.

A three-time team captain who had a knack for coming up big in Michigan State's biggest games (3-0 career record over archrival Michigan), the 6-2 5/8, 214-pound signalcaller sent all the right signals in his perfectly polished chat at Podium B inside Lucas Oil Stadium.

When one interrogator asked if he was more motivated by the widely held belief that he shapes up as no more than a backup QB at the pro level — PFW's Nolan Nawrocki projects Cousins as a second-round pick — Cousins wasn't just kissing up when he indicated that he thinks otherwise.

"Well, I believe I have what it takes to become a great player in the NFL," said Cousins, who would like to do more than just follow in the footsteps of Brian Hoyer, his QB predecessor at MSU who has gone on to become Tom Brady's backup in New England. "I know it will take some time to prove that, but you have to start somewhere.

"I am very excited to have the opportunity this weekend and take the next step toward the draft, and once the draft passes, to then take the next step toward being a great player in this league.

"But the next challenge for me is this Combine, and I want to maximize that."

Cousins, who plans on doing everything at the Combine except the 225-pound bench-press, was asked what he considered to be his greatest qualities.

"When I look at the quarterbacks who have had success year in and year out in the NFL, I see guys who are great leaders, have great accuracy and are great decision makers," he said.  "And I think those things are my three greatest strengths. I think across the board that's what makes a QB successful over a long period of time.

Asked to talk about his accomplishments on the field, Cousins' consistent success against Michigan ranks high on his list.

"All my accomplishments are special, but to beat Michigan four times in a row is very special," he said. "That's especially the case when you realize we had lost five or six in a row before that win streak. To turn the tide that dramatically really says a lot about our program, specifically what our senior class was able to do four straight years.

"It's something we are all very proud of."

Cousins, who finished his career as the winningest QB in MSU history, said he was also very proud of the way the Spartans performed in their last two games under his direction — a loss in a back-and-forth Big Ten championship game vs. Wisconsin at Lucas Oil Stadium followed by an overtime victory over Georgia in the Outback Bowl that saw them rally from a 16-0 halftime deficit.

"Being back here in Indy and walking back to that field for the first time was a bittersweet moment," Cousins said of the loss to Wisconsin that cost his team a Rose Bowl berth. "To just fall short of a second consecutive Big Ten championship was tough, but I was so proud of the effort we put forth that day and all season.

"But at the end of the day we responded, coming back to beat a very good Georgia team that I believe has the second most players at the Combine."

And the next step for Cousins?

"I want to give the coaches here an opportunity to get to know me, to show them what I'm all about," he said. "The more time they spend with me, I think the more they'll like me. I have nothing to hide. I think I'm an open book.

"I approached the Senior Bowl in much the same way. I was excited to get there and show them all just who I am. You accomplish one dream and get to the top of mountain and realize there are other mountains to climb.

"I'm ready to start scaling the next mountain."

— Dan Arkush

 

Ravens' Reed will play next season

Ed Reed is returning to the Ravens for his 11th season, GM Ozzie Newsome told reporters Friday at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Reed, 34, is under contract with the team for another season, but there had been speculation that he might retire.

"He met with John (Harbaugh) and he told John that he is going to get himself prepared to come back and play in 2012," Newsome said.

With MLB Ray Lewis already having committed to play at least one more year, the core of the Ravens' defense will remain in place for next season.

The way we see it

Reed's return takes a lot of pressure off Newsome, who is facing the possible departure of two reserve safeties, Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura, in free agency. It also markedly increases the likelihood that the Ravens can make another postseason run next season.

— PFW staff


For Corp, luck lies in simply being invited

Just when Richmond QB Aaron Corp took his seat at table six in the 2012 NFL Combine media room, Stanford QB Andrew Luck entered the room. Luck, of course, was headed to one of the three more prestigious podiums in the room.

There's no question as to which signalcaller the media gravitated to, but Corp didn't mind. He grinned and laughed when asked about the throng around Luck.

"Doesn't matter, doesn't bother me at all," Corp said. "He has deserved his credit."

The transfer quarterback said he feels fortunate just to be invited to the Combine. He wasn't sure he would get that invite, and he knows he could use the opportunity to get his name out.

"Definitely I was excited," Corp said. "I'm just given the opporunity to be put on the big stage. I wasn't sure if I was going to get it or not, but definitely once I got that email, I was really excited."

Unlike many of the top quarterbacks at the Combine who will only be doing partial workouts, Corp will be doing the full workout, and he hopes that with less competition, he'll be given a spotlight under which to shine.

"There will be just more eyes on me because less guys are throwing," Corp said, "so that's what I'm looking for, and if I can have a good showing, that will be to my benefit."

Corp knows what it's like to be under the spotlight. It's just been awhile, that's all. He was a top-100 high school prospect, according to nearly every scouting service, and his arrival at the University of Southern California carried great promise.

Corp attempted just 30 passes in eight games over two seasons played in Los Angeles, despite emerging as the Trojans' starter in 2009 as a result of his mobility and strong performance in spring practice. He lost the starting spot to then-freshman Matt Barkley after fracturing the top of his left fibula in fall camp and served in a backup role all season, playing in three games with one start. After the season he decided to transfer to Richmond.

"Ultimately, I felt like they didn't have me in their plans as far as it came to getting some playing time, so I decided to transfer," Corp said. "I'd say it was experience, game experience, to be on the field and lead my teammates. Like you said, you can't really substitute (for) game experience."

After struggling with injuries in the past, Corp put together a fine senior season, completing 63.7 percent of his passes for 2,682 yards. He finished with a QB rating of 129.5, but his 13 interceptions point to potential problems.

Corp is aware of his underdog status coming out of Richmond, as he dangles precariously under Pac-12, SEC and Big Ten quarterbacks, and he acknowledged that his status left him no choice but to participate fully in the Combine.

"In my position, I need to throw," Corp said. "I'm definitely not one of the top names that you hear of, so anytime I can be put out there and show what I can do, the better."

Richmond is not a member of any power conference, of course. The Spiders' best victory in 2011 probably came at Duke. Their most recognizable opponent may well have been Delaware.

But a pipeline has been paved. DB Justin Rogers was selected by the Buffalo Bills in the seventh round of last year's draft, and DL Martin Parker ended up with the New York Giants. Former Spiders RB Josh Vaughan even picked up seven carries for the Carolina Panthers this past season.

"There are definitely some guys out there from Richmond," Corp said. "I hope I can be the next one."

Corp said he talked with Vaughan during the summer, when the NFL running back was working out at Richmond during the lockout. Corp added that Richmond's pro-style offense, with two running backs and two tight ends, was appealing, in that it made for a smooth transition from USC and, he hopes, will make for a smooth transition into the NFL

First, however, Corp has to make the NFL, and in order to do that, he is under significant pressure to show his chops in Indianapolis.

"Coming from a smaller school like Richmond, we didn't play in a big-time conference or anything like that, so there will be some doubts as far as: 'Did he play at a high enough competition or not,' " Corp said, "So, I guess, putting me next to guys that did do that can show exactly what I can do."

— Jonah Rosenblum

 

Fisher: Rams won't trade Bradford

New Rams head coach Jeff Fisher on Friday confirmed rumors that the team would listen to offers for the second overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft, but he added that the club had no intention of trading QB Sam Bradford.

"Certainly it will define the immediate, and hopefully, the long-term future of this franchise," Fisher said at the NFL Scouting Combine. "We have a lot of options, and we're going to be prepared what to do with (the pick)."

When asked whether the Rams might consider dealing Bradford, who slumped badly last season after being voted NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2010, Fisher said, "That wouldn't be an option, no."

The way we see it

With a number of teams salivating over QBs Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, the Rams could demand — and get — a treasure trove of draft choices, which they could use to address a number of their many needs.

— PFW staff

 

Award-winning PK Bullock flying under the radar

To watch the way Randy Bullock entered the media room at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine, you wouldn't think he was the reigning Lou Groza Award winner, which annually recognizes college football's top placekicker.

When Purdue PK Carson Wiggs entered the room, he was surrounded by hordes of media members. Tape recorders awaited him and cameras trained their gaze on the Boilermakers' senior. Yet, when Texas A&M's decorated kicker entered the room, just a few media members sat down with him and only two stayed for any significant period of time.

Wiggs' playing career at nearby Purdue might have been part of his popularity but the emptiness surrounding Bullock was still notable. Such is the life of playing a position where being the best doesn't guarantee you a spot in the NFL draft.

"That's just one of the things with the kicking position: nothing is guaranteed," Bullock said. "… Some of the guys you're competing against can be 15 years older than you. That's when kind of the business side of everything takes place, whether or not they want a big-name guy for a lot of money or take a gamble on a younger guy."

Bullock has taken jobs from older kickers before. After senior Richie Bean made only one of his first four field-goal attempts for the Aggies in 2008, Bullock, then a true freshman, seized the spot away. Bullock made six of his seven FG attempts, including 6-of-6 from inside 40 yards, and the rest was history.

"It was tough, I thought a whole lot of the guy, Richie Bean, but at the same time I wanted the job," Bullock explained. "You're either making them or you're not or you're kicking off deeper than someone else. So, like (former Aggies) Coach (Mike) Sherman used to say, the eye in the sky doesn't lie. So, it was one of those things where we were friends, but I wasn't the one doing the evaluations. All I was doing was competing."

It wasn't the first time that Bullock had to come from behind to seize a position. While many of the top high school prospects in the country were committing to colleges their junior year, Bullock's recruiting process didn't heat up until his senior season even though a 54-yard field goal during his junior year of high school had turned a few heads. While he wasn't the most high-profile recruit in the world, he said he has no regrets, particularly since going to Texas A&M allowed him to stay close to home.

"I had an opportunity to look at some places that were a little bit farther away, but at the same time, with my family situation, that was the best place for me," said Bullock, who hails from Klein, Texas, located about 75 miles southeast of College Station. "My brother was at Texas A&M, my mom was going to be able to come to all my games and that was something that was very important to me."

His focus on family was only deepened by the 2003 death of his father, who suffered a fatal heart attack. While his older brother plays the pivotal role of "man of the house" now that his father is gone and escorts his mother to all of Bullock's award shows, Randy does his fair share when his brother is out of the house. And he certainly felt the need to take care of his mother.

He also felt the need to do one more thing for his father, who taught him how to kick a football — and ultimately for himself: complete his major in petroleum engineering and his minor in petroleum geology. While graduation day might be pushed aside for a little while as a result of his burgeoning football career, he continues to take classes and work away, with his father's memory firmly in mind.

"He was huge on academics, and that's one of the reasons I'm trying to finish up on my degree," Bullock said. "It's very important to me. Even if I do get an opportunity in the NFL, it's not guaranteed that you have a 15-year NFL career and you don't need your degree. Even, at the same time, if I retire from the NFL after a long career, I want to be able to work in the oil and gas industry, so I've taken that from him. He has taught me so many things about being successful, being disciplined, working hard and that nothing ever comes easy if it's worthwhile."

For now, his primary focus is on the NFL.

"Right now, this takes the cake." Bullock said. "Kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. If I didn't chase it, I don't think I'd ever forgive myself."

So, Bullock continues his studies, both on and off the field, although he said that he's merely tweaking his kicking game at this point.

"I feel like once you get to a high level in college, at that point you're kind of polishing it," Bullock said. "I've been successful at what I do, let's find little things that I can do to fine-tune, and give me that extra few yards here or there whether it's on the field goal or on the kickoff and help improve my all-around consistency."

He saved his best for last, however, nearly doubling his output from 2010 with 29 made field goals in 2011. With a 29-of-33 clip on field goals, and a nearly perfect 55-of-57 rate on point-after tries, Bullock gave himself a shot at the NFL, particularly with the attention he earned from receiving the Lou Groza Award.

"It meant a whole lot," Bullock said. "It's a really prestigious award that only one person can get each year and my name is now with some of the best to ever kick."

Bullock said he doesn't see any reason why his journey shouldn't continue into the NFL. He said that the tough love he received from Sherman, now the Dolphins' offensive coordinator, helped prepare him for this moment.

"I played for Coach Sherman and whenever I did miss a kick, he was hard on me," Bullock said. "He held me to a very high standard and, at times, I would get kind of frustrated and say, 'this stinks or whatever.' At the same time, that tough love has made me become the player that I am right now."

— Jonah Rosenblum

 

Floyd addresses his growth from arrests

WR Michael Floyd said he knew the types of questions he would get in the team interviews, and he seemed ready for the media as well.

Floyd, who could be a first-round pick, has three alcohol incidents on his record, and he wants NFL teams to know that he has matured.

"That you've grown from it, it's behind you," he said. "It's a mistake that happened in the past and I'm moving forward. … All I can do is be honest and tell them exactly what happened in my past and go on from there."

Floyd's last run-in with the law came on March 20, 2011, and it put his senior year in jeopardy. Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly suspended Floyd before reinstating him in August.

"He put me through a couple classes, stayed on my side the whole time and didn't go anywhere," Floyd said about Kelly's impact. "He made sure what I was doing every single day and that I was on top of the things I had to accomplish to be back on the team, possibly. I give him a lot of thanks for sticking by me.

"You never know, a coach could just kick you off the team. He gave me a chance, and I took that chance and am moving forward."

Floyd said he changed his ways in his social life to stay out of trouble by going out less and changing the environment around him.

In his senior year, Floyd had 100 catches for 1,147 yards and nine touchdowns. He measured in at 6-foot-2 "and some change" and 220 pounds at the Combine. A big, "go-up-and-get-it" receiver, Floyd said that on the field, he wants to show the scouts how fast he is.

"I am doing all the drills here. I'm excited to be in this position and have the opportunity to show my talent."

— Kevin Fishbain

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