STATE COLLEGE — Penn State offensive lineman John Urschel routinely provides a look at his journey leading to next week’s NFL draft in a series of diary entries. Urschel is an all-Big Ten guard, a third-team AP All-American and the Sullivan Award winner as the country’s top amateur athlete. He has a Master’s degree in math and was awarded the William V. Campbell Trophy as college football’s top scholar-athlete. His sixth entry is about working out for NFL teams, preparing for next season and his final days in Happy Valley.
When it comes to the transition from college football to the NFL, fans focus on primarily two things: the combine and the draft. What often gets left out is the process of individual player workouts. Each team can fly up to 30 guys into its facility and talk to them, but cannot work them out. In addition, teams can set up workouts and interviews with players either at their university or in their hometown.
Since the combine, I have had a variety of private workouts and visits with teams. This includes workouts in my hometown, at Penn State, and also visits to different team facilities. The workouts can vary greatly, from a simple test of your technical skills at your position to a more rigorous test that also looks at your condition, toughness, and resilience. And this is just on the field. Off the field, your football IQ is tested. One of the biggest things that fans overlook is how much of a mental game football becomes at higher levels. This is especially true for offensive line play. Imagine “Gruden’s QB Camp for Offensive Linemen.”
The moral of the story is that, while fans focus on height, weight, 40s, and bench press reps, it takes a whole lot more than size and strength to play offensive line in the NFL.
I am done with all my private workouts and have done everything I could to help my draft stock. My focus has shifted completely to training for camp and the upcoming season. While the thought of the draft on the horizon can result in restlessness and fear for the unknown, I have decided to take a much different approach. Because there is no longer anything I can do to help my stock, I have decided to stop thinking about it all together. My only concern is to put myself in the best position possible to make a team and contribute as a rookie.
In addition, in my downtime I have been trying my best to enjoy my last days at Penn State. Just this past Sunday, I was honored to be put on the Penn State mural in downtown State College, Pennsylvania. For my five years here I can often recall walking by it and looking at all the people who have contributed to Penn State and the State College community. It was one of the greatest surprises I could have been given in my last days in Happy Valley.
These next couple days may be the last days I’ll be on a college campus for a long time. I have no doubt that I will miss Penn State, and I am really taking the time to soak it all in for my last days. I’ve made a list of my last to-dos at Penn State. It includes things such as a blueberry muffin at the Waffle Shop, a trip to the Paterno Library, stargazing in the Arboretum and much more. In short, I will miss this university and community.