A year ago the Steelers' 2016 rookies were in the same shoes college players are today, dealing with the pressure and rigors of the NFL Scouting Combine.
While it might be the greatest opportunity for college players, the opportunity to perform and prove themselves in front of all 32 teams head coaches and general managers, it also is a challenge. And it's a challenge they are happy to have behind them.
Several of the team's 2016 rookies took time to share their take on what the Combine was like for them.
- Some players hated the Combine. Javon Hargrave wasn't one of them. He isn't saying he liked it, but he appreciated the opportunity it provided for him.
"I didn't hate it, but it's more than what you think," said Hargrave. "It's an opportunity to showcase what you have. I didn't love it, but I loved the opportunity to showcase and get where I am today."
Hargrave said those watching the Combine at home only see a part of it. They don't get a feel for what the schedule is like for the players, the way they are pulled in every direction, and how much pressure there is. But it was pressure he didn't mind.
"It's different. It really is," said Hargrave. "It's way different than what the television shows. It's a lot of long nights and just grinding. At the end of the day it's worth it to show who you are as a player and a person.
"I feel like there is always pressure because you have to perform at your best. It's not bad pressure though. Athletes live off of pressure. I like pressure. It makes me perform even better."
Hargrave didn't talk to the Steelers at the Combine as one of his scheduled interviews, instead making a visit to Pittsburgh later. But he said the opportunity to perform in front of them, and all 32 teams, during the Combine and bowl games, were invaluable.
"It's the greatest job interview you can have at the Combine," said Hargrave. "The Combine, Senior Bowl, East West Shrine Game, and all of those are great opportunities and job interviews. You just have to nail it. You really have to nail it."
- Demarcus Ayers was warned what it would be like at the Combine, but until you experience it yourself, you never really know. The schedule is grueling, the pressure is high, and getting sleep, well, forget about it.
"It was tough," said Ayers. "There were long days. You think about the camp grind, the season grind. You know that is coming and expect it. But that time of year, nobody can prepare you for the Combine grind. You wake up at four in the morning for drug tests and then you weigh in at six in the morning. You have meetings all night. You get about five good hours of sleep. It's different. Your body has to adjust to it.
"You are interviewing for a job and it's crazy. We prepare for training and weight lifting and running 40s. We don't prepare for the meetings all day, waking up for tests and things. You are out of your comfort zone some and you still have to go out and perform."
And while it seems crazy, Ayers believes it's all part of a test to see if you can handle it, and therefore handle the rigors of the NFL.
"It can really drain you. It's a draining process," said Ayers. "I think they do it on purpose to see how well you can excel under pressure. Some guys do a good job, but it's a challenge. You need to be prepared for the grind.
"You are doing what you normally do your whole life as far as the physical side of it. But you have to be mentally focused. You have to get rest. You have to take care of your body. It's a challenge, but you have to be ready for it in order to excel."