There are varying opinions about the value of the NFL combine, but there’s no doubt that a prospect’s performance at the event can dramatically impact their stock heading into the NFL Draft. From a physical perspective, the combine tests athletes in a variety of ways, putting their speed, strength, versatility and football skills on display.
It can be interesting to watch players participate in drills, and wonder how they got be so adept at things that their position may not demand on gameday. They might have proficiency in these areas thanks to exposure from other sports they played earlier in their life.
We’ll take a look at a few NFL prospects who played other sports back in the day.
One of the most tantalizing prospects in this year’s NFL Draft is Myles Murphy out of Clemson. There’s an excellent chance that Murphy will be selected in the top ten, which speaks to the impact he could have once he reaches the next level. He’s a 6’5”, 276 pound behemoth who offensive linemen have nightmares playing against.
It might be hard to believe this now, but Murphy actually toed the slab on a pitcher’s mound before he ever became a star on the gridiron. Hitters facing Murphy probably thought he was at least seven feet tall.
“I wasn’t the most accurate pitcher, but I did my best,” Murphy said. Via DetroitNews.com
Murphy believes that pitching helped him become a better football player, since he learned how to repeat the same mechanics over and over on the diamond.
If you asked the younger version of Will McDonald what he’d be doing at age 23, chances are he wouldn’t have listed training for the NFL Draft as a likely outcome. McDonald wasn’t a big fan of the sport growing up, and intentionally chose to participate in anything but football.
The Iowa State defender loved to play soccer and basketball, and practice martial arts such as jiu-jitsu. He would eventually be convinced by a high school football coach to give the sport a try, and he took to it right away. He zoomed past offensive linemen routinely in his tryout.
“And then, that’s when we figured out, you know, I was a pass rusher,” McDonald recalled. Via DetroitNews.com
Lukas Van Ness
Similarly, Iowa defensive end Lukas Van Ness had an upbringing that wasn’t locked in on football. He did play another physically demanding sport however, and credits hockey for getting him ready for the gridiron.
“I think I attach hockey to a lot of my skills and my balance I have today,” Van Ness stated. “It’s a hard sport to play. It’s very physical. It’s very demanding.” Via DetroitNews.com
Van Ness’ high school hockey team was in the running to win a state title before the pandemic short-circuited their season.