Chance to try NFL combine drills fun but humbling experience

In this photo taken Monday, Feb. 29, 2016, Associated Press sportswriter Tim Booth competes in the shuttle run as he takes part in the Inaugural Seahawks.com Seattle Media Combine at the team's NFL football practice facility in Renton, Wash. Booth and other media representatives competed in the 40-yard dash, the vertical and broad jumps, the three-cone drill, the shuttle run and a football pass-catching drill called "the gauntlet." (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

RENTON, Wash. (AP) — Richard Sherman and Bobby Wagner looked over the assembled throng and for a change they were the ones in position to analyze and criticize our performances.

“Now it’s our turn,” Sherman said with Wagner, Bruce Irvin and a few other Seattle Seahawks by his side.

Under the bright lights of the Seahawks’ practice facility this week, two dozen under-scouted, undervalued hopefuls were subjected to the same NFL combine drills as all the top draft prospects in Indianapolis. Nursing bad knees, ankles, shoulders and other achy joints, these members of the Seattle media put their egos and pride aside to show off their athleticism — which for most of us was very little — in front of some of the same players that we evaluate for 16 NFL games every fall.

Related: UT’s Maggit and North head to NFL Combine

Of course, Sherman and the majority of his friends didn’t stick around for the entire 90-minute event. There was no reason for those players to spend more time than needed watching a bunch of media members looking awkward while doing the same thing the players do effortlessly.

The events were the same as the NFL combine in Indianapolis — minus the bench press, which probably would have led to the need for medical personnel. Our efforts in the 40-yard dash, 20-yard shuttle run, 3-cone drill, vertical jump and broad jump were all timed, measured and visually documented for future embarrassment, and brought out the competitiveness among colleagues who are only marginally similar to the players using that field during the NFL season.

In this photo taken Monday, Feb. 29, 2016, Associated Press sportswriter Tim Booth competes in the vertical jump as he takes part in the Inaugural Seahawks.com Seattle Media Combine at the team's NFL football practice facility in Renton, Wash. Booth and other media representatives competed in the 40-yard dash, the vertical and broad jumps, the three-cone drill, the shuttle run and a football pass-catching drill called "the gauntlet." (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
In this photo taken Monday, Feb. 29, 2016, Associated Press sportswriter Tim Booth competes in the vertical jump as he takes part in the Inaugural Seahawks.com Seattle Media Combine at the team’s NFL football practice facility in Renton, Wash. Booth and other media representatives competed in the 40-yard dash, the vertical and broad jumps, the three-cone drill, the shuttle run and a football pass-catching drill called “the gauntlet.” (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Above all else, it was humbling. Absolutely it was fun and competitive. Yet seeing those numbers flashing on an electronic board or being written down to be published publicly is sometimes not easy to accept; the same numbers that sometimes can make or break the career of an NFL prospect.

I try to stay active, with the emphasis on try. I play a little basketball with friends when I can, indoor soccer once a week with a group of fellow youth soccer parents and am supposed to be training for a half-marathon later this summer. When the email arrived announcing the Seahawks event, I happened to be spending the afternoon with a childhood friend and told him I thought I could break 5.3 in the 40. He laughed.

Turned out he was right. Another humbling moment. But more on that later.

Before the event began, Sherman and his friends offered up suggestions. Some were actually useful: Keep your head down coming out of the start in the 40; swing your arms doing the broad jump; stay low in and out of your cuts in the shuttle run and 3-cone drill.

And then there were the less helpful ideas.

“Run fast and don’t tear something,” Sherman said.

And even more ludicrous.

“Less is more,” Sherman said. “Less clothes.” To which Irvin added a suggestion about letting body parts “breathe,” which was the last thing about to take place with this group of athletic specimens.

Along with the worry of having our performances videoed and photographed was a general paranoia of committing a moment of clumsiness that would be on a continuous Internet loop. And it happened less than one minute into the 40-yard dash when a radio producer stumbled at about 25 yards and barrel rolled on the turf. Sherman, Irvin and nearly everyone else watching doubled over in laughter, but that didn’t help my nerves. I was next to run.

So when I completed the 40 yards in 5.45 seconds and without falling on my face, it was a success even if I didn’t break my target of 5.3.

Based on historical numbers at the NFL combine, the rest of my efforts would have been acceptable if I was a defensive tackle or an interior offensive lineman: 8.09 in the 3-cone drill; 5.13 in the 20-yard shuttle run; 86 inches in the broad jump; and a vertical of 19 inches that lacked the leap part. I also managed to catch all eight passes in the final event, the “gauntlet drill” a 53-yard sprint across the field catching throws from two directions, including a pass from former NFL quarterback Jim Zorn.

But that was it. The challenge was done, right as my hamstrings tightened up and my knee throbbed.

As if I needed another reminder that I’m better suited to have a notebook, a pen and a slice of pizza in my hand.

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