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Graham: Stress and anxiety at Combine

Posted Feb 20, 2013


For NFL scouts and front office talent evaluators the NFL Combine is another part of the pre-draft process to paint a full picture of each and every draft worthy prospect. For the players the Combine is the biggest job interview of their young lives, which can lead to a lot of tension and stress. Such was the case for Bills 2012 third-round pick T.J. Graham.

Appearing recently on the John Murphy Show, Graham shared some of his Combine experiences from last winter including the things that kept him up at night during his three days in Indianapolis.

“Just the nerves and anxiety of that month or of January and February with the training was so long because you were counting down the seconds and the minutes,” said Graham. “Going into Indy I was pretty excited. It was something as a kid you always watched and I always thought how much I’d love to run the 40. It’s different when you get there. It’s not everything you expect.”

Graham quickly found out every prospect is on a tight schedule from the moment they arrive beginning with the medical exam.

“When you first get there you check your bags in and right after you do that you’re off to the hospital,” he said. “You’re standing in the hospital getting poked and you had a cold back in 1990 that they’re asking you to cough for. It’s stuff you forgot about. You rolled your ankle in middle school and they have documents on it and they’re going to MRI you and X-ray you. There are a lot of things that are behind the scenes.”

The Bills receiver admitted he had a couple of sleepless nights fearful that he would miss a scheduled meeting. What was most interesting however, was most of his agenda came via text.

“There’s no written schedule down so you have to check with your group leader,” said Graham. “He’s a leader of 20 guys and he texts you periodically to tell you where you need to be throughout your time there. If he hasn’t texted you then you feel like you’re missing something. And you actually are missing something. There’s a room where you’re supposed to be doing informal interviews and if you’re not doing something then you should always be there. That’s where all 32 teams are and they’re going to do everything they can to learn everything about you.”

Each NFL club can submit a list of 60 prospects for formal interviews that take place at night. For those prospects they don’t meet with behind closed doors they try to gather information via the informal interviews throughout the week of the Combine.

The formal interviews are usually what carry the most weight in what teams believe your makeup is as a person.

“Those interviews they ask you about your mom, your dad, your girlfriend, your dog,” he said. “They want to know what kind of person you are. I remember the Chiefs gave me a test. The coach read out a bunch of plays and routes and stuff and five minutes later he’s quizzing me on it and the only reason I remember it is I was the only receiver to remember everything 100 percent.

The last part of the Combine for any player is what takes place on the field with their workout and drills. For Graham it was the part of the experience he was looking forward to the most.

Graham, who had a strong track background with two parents that made a career in track, the receiver was expected to blaze in the 40. He ran a 4.41, had a 10-foot broad jump, a 33-inch vertical leap, a 6.77-second time in the three cone drill and eight reps on the bench press.  

“I wanted to run faster,” Graham said. “I woke up so early that morning. You could hear a pin drop in Lucas Oil Stadium. It was nerve wracking. The most fun we had was going out and doing stuff we were familiar with like catching balls, running routes and stuff like that. And it just felt so natural. When I was done I couldn’t believe I was done. I was waiting for somebody to tell me I had to do something else. I guess I could’ve run better, but I can’t argue. I made it to where I always wanted to be.”