With the 2014 NFL Combine getting underway today, four former Hokies are gearing up to impress general managers and scouts in the yearly showcase. Over the next four days, quarterback Logan Thomas, defensive end James Gayle and cornerbacks Antone Exum and Kyle Fuller will go through a series of drills, tests and interviews for dozens of NFL scouts and executives at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Each of the four has taken completely different paths to this upcoming week. And after months of training, they're ready to show how valuable they could be on an NFL squad.
"I'm concentrating on perfecting everything technically this week and being in the best form possible come these next few days," Exum said.
With so many participants (around 300), prospects have to figure out a way to stand out amongst countless college stars. Exum believes he's worked hard enough to come back from knee injuries (three games played in 2013) to wow the higher-ups in attendance. During his five-year career at Virginia Tech, Exum had 186 tackles, six interceptions, and 42 passes defended.
"I think I'll turn heads in every facet of the combine," Exum said. "I'm a rare corner because of my size, versatility, skill-set, and brains. And I'm going to do everything in my power to show that in Indianapolis."
Exum and fellow Fuller will begin their workouts on Tuesday, so they still have a few days to prepare. Both have good chances of being drafted, with some pundits picking Fuller (173 tackles, six interceptions, and 34 passes defended) to go in the early rounds.
Gayle will get his first chance to impress when the defensive ends begin workouts on Monday. In five years in Blacksburg, he had 138 tackles, 22 sacks, and 40.5 tackles for loss.
The one player that has been all over draft boards for three years now, Thomas, arguably has the most riding on the combine. Though Thomas, a three-year starter for the Hokies, had a pedestrian-like 16 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and a 56.5 completion percentage as a senior, he's widely seen as anywhere from a fourth to first-round draft pick.
Thomas' physical tools should be very apparent and among the best in the quarterback pool. It will only take one general manager/head coach to think he is a starter-caliber player, but Thomas' combine performance (beginning tomorrow) may ultimately decide when that team pulls the trigger in May.
The group's fellow graduate and NFL hopeful, linebacker Jack Tyler, will participate in Virginia Tech's pro day March 19. But he'll still be rooting for his former teammates to showcase well, and believes they will succeed.
"All four of those guys were a lot of fun to play with, and obviously I've gotten to know all of them really well," Tyler said. "I think each guy will standout in different ways, and hopefully teams will recognize how they could be of value down the road."