Rome Odunze put on a show at NFL combine, then did something rarely ever seen

INDIANAPOLIS — Earlier this week, when it became clear that Rome Odunze was the highest rated prospect who would actually participate fully in this week’s NFL scouting combine, the Washington Huskies wideout fielded a question that has essentially become a defining North Star for the elite players at this year’s event.

Why do it?

All three of the top quarterbacks declined to do on-field work, with LSU’s Jayden Daniels refusing to even be weighed or measured. The top tight end, Brock Bowers, skipped all of his positional drills and the 40-yard dash. Same for the draft’s presumed top two wideouts, LSU’s Malik Nabers and Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr., who no-showed his scheduled media appearance. By Saturday, it effectively left the combine with Odunze as the last elite standing after he committed to doing literally everything.

By the end of Saturday night, he not only showed up — he starred. And in a twist, he did it longer than anyone realized.

After the 6-foot-3, 212-pound Odunze put up superb scores in the vertical leap (39 inches) and 20-yard shuttle (4.03), he ran a strong 4.45 seconds in the 40-yard dash. He followed that up with an impeccable slate of drills, highlighted by a near-perfect gauntlet, showcasing his ability to stay on a line while running at full speed and catching passes in rapid succession. Then he did something that caught the eyes of NFL talent evaluators.

With Lucas Oil Stadium nearly empty, Odunze was on the field repeatedly re-running his three-cone drill. Despite already notching the fourth-highest score (6.88) of his receiver class, he had clipped a cone while attempting to get a better score. So he went again. And again. And again. Five times in all, until NFL Network cameras noticed he was doing a drill in a stadium that was effectively abandoned.

It was a moment that caught the eyes of evaluators, too.

“Wow,” one scout said. “Damn. Yeah, he’s a stud. The safest pick in this draft, I guess besides [Harrison], but Marvin probably wouldn’t have tested like Odunze did. Also an insanely good kid.”

“Unanimous All-Juice Team,” another scout texted.

Without question, it was a telling moment to end a great day — and great week — for Odunze, who has also drawn rave reviews in his interviews with teams. So much so, there now seems to be a rising possibility that he could unseat Nabers as the presumed second wideout of the board after Harrison. That wouldn’t be a massive upset, given that Odunze has been a first-round pick in waiting since his 2022 season with the Huskies.

Washington wide receiver Rome Odunze does a backflip as players celebrate after their workout at the NFL football scouting combine, Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Washington wide receiver Rome Odunze does a backflip as players celebrate after their workout at the scouting combine on Saturday in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

As for that question about why Odunze did everything — when he easily could have joined Harrison and Nabers in doing nothing — he answered it himself earlier this week.

“That’s what it’s about — saying you’re the best and going and competing for it, right?” Odunze said. “I do feel that way, so of course it’s a competition. But also, all these dudes are ballers. I’m just super honored to be a part of the conversation and super grateful to be able to compete against guys like that. I’m fans of their game as well.”

“For me, [this is] about being able to compete against generations before, generations to come and be able to see where I stack up against all those people. I feel like it’s a one-time thing, a thing you can only do once in your life, so I just wanted to do it to the fullest. It’s something I feel like I can excel at, so that’s why I decided to do it.”

He lived up to that Saturday. But what has been most interesting about him this week is that teams have finally been able to absorb his personality. Not to mention see how he has mingled with other stars. One personnel man noted that he has seen USC quarterback Caleb Williams gravitate toward Odunze on more than one occasion this week, a reality that has likely fed into some buzz over the course of the combine that has suggested the Chicago Bears could take Williams with the No. 1 overall pick, then attempt to move up from their No. 9 spot to pair Odunze with him.

That might be a little more difficult after Saturday, when Odunze easily cement himself inside the draft’s elite wideout trio with Harrison and Nabers. Early in the week, he’d met with the Bears, Tennessee Titans, New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers, although that list had likely doubled by Saturday. How far he can climb in this draft remains to be seen, especially given that he's already potentially inside the top six overall. But as Odunze said earlier this week, he believes he’s the best wideout in this draft and he came to Indianapolis prepared to prove it.

“I just think my versatility on the field [is why I’m the best],” Odunze said. “I think I’ve shown all the skills that can translate to the NFL at a high level in different facets of my game. And I think who I am as a person, who I will be to a locker room, who I will be in the community, are all A-plus. … I’m always willing to learn, always willing to understand that there’s room for improvement regardless of where I’m at in my career.”

Even if that point in his career is on a Saturday night at the combine, running a drill for the fifth time inside a stadium that is ready to turn out the lights.