Football talk will revolve around the NFL Scouting Combine this week, and that is something that brings back great memories for outside linebackers coach Joey Porter.
Porter, who attended the Combine in 1999, loved the opportunity to get on a big stage and show what he could do in front of every NFL coach, general manager and scout, especially coming from a smaller school like Colorado State.
"I went to a small school and you finally get to put yourself on the same stage as these big names," said Porter. "You always want to know where you fare. Where you are. Is he that much better than me or are we on the same playing field? I always wanted to know where those guys stood. A lot of big name guys dropped out so I was bummed about that."
Porter turned a lot of heads at the Combine, enough to be taken in the third round, the 73rd pick overall in the 1999 NFL Draft, by the Steelers. He clocked a 4.68, which he jokes today he was probably faster than what they clocked him, bench pressed 27 reps at 225 pounds, and had a broad jump of 39 inches.
But he wanted to line those numbers up against others at his position, the cream of the crop, and not getting to do that was the one disappointment.
"A lot of guys that I wanted to compete against didn't test," said Porter. "And I was mad. I wanted their best against my best to be put out there at the same time. I wanted the top guys who were supposed to go in the first round to go out there and compete.
"My whole thing is what do you have to hide? It's just the 40-yard dash; it's just the bench press. It's the stuff we had been doing since we were little. Now we're going to do it in front of everybody. The real testing is at the Combine, it's the true testing. Pro days are good, but the test at the Combine is the one."
Porter shared a few more thoughts, including what keeps him busy now, the offseason, what he likes now about the Combine, and more.
What do coaches do this time of year, this point of the offseason?
"We sit back and reflect on the season. We start grading our guys, the performances, how we did some things, what we can do differently. Then we start looking at free agents and getting ready for the Combine. After the Combine its pro days and start the whole evaluation process over again trying to find us some players to get us to the Super Bowl."
Do you feel rejuvenated, ready to attack the offseason slate?
"Now it's time to start over and try to put ourselves in the situation to hold the Vince Lombardi Trophy."
As a former player, is it fun to be on the other side, to have the opportunity to go out and evaluate young players, potential draft picks?"It's crazy. I absolutely love it. It's from a different perspective. I know what these guys are getting ready to get into. They have no idea. I remember being that young and I didn't embrace the process when I was going through it as a player. Now as I look at these guys going through it I think these guys are starting on some stuff where they really don't know how much fun they are about to have. I love seeing that, I love being a part of that evaluation, looking at guys and having my opinion on what they can do to help themselves get better, having an opportunity to grade and evaluate the talent coming out. The whole process is fun to me."
Any regrets not enjoying the process coming out of college?
"I just look at it different now. Then I was moving so fast I never got to sit back when I was getting ready for the Senior Bowl, for the Combine. Everything was test, test, I have to do this, I have to do that. It's a different era from then to now. Everything is shared on social media now. I met a lot of people, but my mind was so focused I wasn't trying to meet anybody. We were all competing for the same position. Coming into the league, being friends with some of these guys later, but in that competing process of trying to raise your stock to get drafted, I was in battle mode. I wasn't trying to be too friendly to anybody. I already had a chip on my shoulder. I played at Colorado State, not a lot of people knew the school. It's not up there with the bigger schools. As a player I felt like I could play with anybody. I don't know if they viewed me like that. I went in and I stayed sheltered from people. I just wanted to compete and prove everybody wrong."
You talked about guys who dropped out of the Combine. Do you remember who some of those big name guys were?
"Yeah, but it is what it is. It's over."