By I’yonna Taylor-Smith
YOUNGSTOWN, OH – For many college athletes, professional sports are the ultimate goal in which a lot dream of being in, but a few percentage actually does.
According to NCAA, less than 2% of college football players make it to the league. This means that a college athlete has a slim-to-none chance of eventually being in the league. Unless you play baseball of course, then which you have a 9% chance.
Since this is America’s favorite league, these athletes are going to go against a lot of touch competitors, some that they could have previously played against in high school or college.
Some athletes leave college in early years to enter the league and others graduate and have a year or two to prepare.
With the 2018 NFL draft beginning, many team coaches and scouts have a preview of who the best athletes are at the combine. At the combine, athletes perform a series of tasks to show their overall athletic ability.
This current year there were 336 participants at the NFL combine, according to the NFL.
Unfortunately, not every athlete is invited to this event, yet not every athlete sees this as a setback.
Jerome Baker, former Ohio State University linebacker and current draft prospect from Cleveland, Ohio, thinks that not being invited to the combine is not a major setback.
Kieron Williams, former safety for University of Nebraska, was not invited to the combine, but did participate in pro-day in which NFL scouts visit colleges across the country to watch players together in group settings, different from the combine which is a series of events over a week where assignments are typically done solo.
When reflecting on pro day at Nebraska, former Husker said, “My pro day experience didn’t goperfect but I think I showed teams my character and the type of player I am through my drillsand the way I carried myself.”
According to the NCAA, in the 2016 season, Williams was named the number one playmaker among safeties in the Big Ten football conference.
This is something that NFL scouts would look at due to him not being involved in the combine. This would strengthen his chance also because the Big Ten Network is also one of the highly- watched conferences for student athletes, after the SEC.
According to the NCAA, since the first draft has started 407 SEC players have been chosen first round. Following right after that, is the Big Ten with 377 players.
Some other schools in this conference are The Ohio State University, University of Michigan, and University of Iowa.
For Division 1 conferences, five out of the major 12 conferences make up 77% of the NFL. These five conferences are usually referred to as the ‘power five’.
Williams believes that going to combine only helps your chances of getting in the league butnot doing the combing doesn’t have an impact. He says that by not participating in thecombine, it gives you more time to prepare.
Baker was invited to the 2018 combine where he ran a 4.53 40-yard dash and bench pressed 22 reps. The average statistics for the same position is 4.68 and 22 reps.
“I wouldn’t say it is easier, but I would say it gave me a better chance,” he said.
Approximately 15 teams invited the former Buckeye to meet around the country and get to know him on a personal level.
Baker said, “When you’re actually on the team is what determines your success in the league. So, if you think about it, meeting with the teams, the combine, the draft… they don’t really mean anything.”
One NFL star that Baker mentioned was James Harrison. Harrison, another Ohio native that went to Kent State University from Akron, Ohio went undrafted in 2002 and was signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Harrison is currently the only undrafted player to ever become the NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He is also a 2x Super Bowl Champion, 5x Pro Bowl player, 2x First-team All-Pro, and 2x Second-team All-Pro. His career ran from 2002-2017 where he spent his final season with the New England Patriots.
“James Harrison didn’t get invited to the combine but he still played 10 plus years in the NFL.The pre-draft process and really the draft doesn’t mean anything.,” he added.
Tom Brady was drafted in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL draft by the New England Patriots. He currently is considered the best quarterback in the league. The former Wolverine leads the league in the most consecutive passes for a touchdown at 52 throws.
Brady has also not changed teams since he has entered the league 12 years ago, and has won five Superbowl championships and is a seven-time Pro-Bowl player.
Some things that teams look at before drafting or signing a player is decision making, personality, and social attributes. Sometimes these interviews can get far out there, for example they asked 2018 NFL prospect Derrius Guice if he likes men.
The Seahawks team asked Texas punter Michael Dickson to do a staring contest which made him confused, but he did it regardless.
Williams added that he switched agents halfway through his preparation for the draft.
“That was an obstacle that I faced because we didn’t see eye to eye on some things and that could have affected a team’s outlook on me as a player and decision maker,” he said.
Lamar Jackson, former quarterback for Louisville and Heisman winner, did not have an agent entering the 2018 draft and made an announcement that his mother would serve as his advisor. This rubbed many scouts and draft analyzers the wrong way.
This caused some NFL personnel to say he was bad at decision making.
Williams does not want anyone to think that tough decisions should impact your end goals. “My advice would be that everything works out how it’s supposed to so whether you get an invite or not God will always lead you in the direction you’re supposed to go so don’t worry about it and just work.”
The Shreveport, Louisiana native currently awaits in hopes of his phone ringing with a coach on the other line inviting him on the team.