NFL prospects have been prepping for this big week

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) " The 330 players arriving at the National Football League's annual combine have been preparing for this week's "Underwear Olympics" like a prize fighter gets ready for his big night, pumping iron and cutting carbs.

They've been following strict programs designed to help them get stronger, run faster and jump higher in anticipation of getting poked and prodded, measured and treasured.

"The hardest thing for these kids to really understand when they get to the combine and the pro day is they get one shot at all these drills," said Loren Landow, who trained Stanford star Christian McCaffrey among more than two dozen NFL hopefuls at Landow Performance in suburban Denver over the last two months.

"Whereas your strength coach in college used to let you do it over and over until you got your best time, now that's not the case when you're being evaluated in a time crunch," Landow said. "They're going to give you one opportunity and it's all about how well you perform at that moment with high levels of stress and some fatigue on you."

That's been the formula ever since Mike Mamula absolutely killed it at the 1995 combine and rocketed into the first round, where the Philadelphia Eagles traded the 12th overall pick and two second-round selections to Tampa Bay so they could move up five spots and get the Boston College defensive end at No.


Mamula was among the first players to train specifically for the tests he'd face at the combine: the 40-yard dash, the three-cone drill that measures agility and the 225-pound bench press.

Now everybody targets this week in Indy like Mamula did all those years ago.

Today's prospects train six days a week for eight weeks or more all so they can impress NFL executives who will test their speed, strength, skills and brain power while also checking out their medical background and any off-field history for any red flags.

"I feel like it's definitely getting us ready for the combine as far as all the guys we're competing against each other," said Air Force receiver Jalen Robinette, who led the nation in yards per catch in 2016. "Because it's a real big interview/competition there at the combine. And being able to break down the drills and mentally be practicing everything, it's awesome. Literally every day I hear new stuff about the combine that they teach me here."

They pretty much follow the same basic program because they'll be doing the same tests at the combine. But the training is also personalized by position.

These players have all undergone mock combines, too, where they put all their training together for dry runs to give them a taste of what this week will bring.

This training isn't cheap. It can cost tens of thousands of dollars, although the pricing structure changes for draft wannabes and sure bets.

"If an athlete is an NFL combine invite, the agent will pay for everything," Landow said.

"If you have a kid who may be a bubble guy who didn't get the combine invite but you know can play, the agents will typically foot the bill.

"Some guys if they're a priority free agent maybe at best, sometimes it's coming out of their own pocket."

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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