Every prospect that reached the NFL level this past weekend as a draft choice had to work hard in some way shape or form to make it to the pros. Desire, dedication and determination are prerequisites to be considered for the National Football League, along with talent. Rarely however, is a team's entire draft class made up of players whose work ethicis trumpeted as their overwhelming quality.
Bills top pick C.J. Spiller is an electrifying player. His game breaking talent is about as obvious as it gets. Having a hand in 53 touchdowns in a college career will make that pretty plain. Despite those God-given physical gifts however, Spiller's coaches and teammates point to his work ethic as the reason he keeps getting better.
Learning what hard work is about from his grandmother, who worked for years as a custodian at his high school in Lake Butler, Florida, Spiller not only took a 'nose to the grindstone' approach with football, but his academics as well graduating in three and a half years at Clemson.
"I saw how hard she worked. She was a custodian waking up at six o'clock in the morning to get the school ready and she did that day in and day out and never complained about it. I knew that was something I needed to do. So I don't complain. Every day I go to work and give it everything I got and that's something that I learned from her. Pressure is when you're unprepared. I know the type of work ethic I have and I won't be unprepared."
That approach is no different with Torell Troup, Buffalo's second-round draft choice. Reporting to Central Florida as a freshman at 365 pounds the defensive tackle's stamina was not fit for the demands of the college game. He had to shed weight and improve his endurance.
Troup took a no nonsense approach to bettering himself and his game. By his senior year Troup was a svelte 315-pound grinder that never came off the field.
"The number of snaps he'd play every game was amazing," said Bills Vice President of College Scouting Tom Modrak. "To me for a big man there's a quick rotation with most guys you watch. He plays all the time and he plays hard all the time. He put himself in a good position from a stamina standpoint."
"I love to work," said Troup. "If I feel like anybody is working harder than me, then I'm mad at myself. I work all day, every day. You can catch me up at two in the morning running two miles, so I don't shy away from hard work at all."
Third-round pick Alex Carrington saw hard work pay off when it came to numbers as he tallied 19.5 sacks in his final two seasons at Arkansas State. But in no way was Carrington a player that was going to rest on those results.
When the Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Year was invited to the Senior Bowl to match up with the much hyped bigger school prospects, Carrington went into workhorse mode.
"I had a chip on my shoulder and I wanted to prove myself immediately that I wasn't going to be a pushover and that I could play football as well as anybody out there," said Carrington. "I knew I could play, I just wanted other people to know I could play and I think I proved myself."
The result was complete domination of opposing offensive linemen in the Senior Bowl practices.
Perseverance might best be personified by Bills fourth-round pick Marcus Easley. Given little opportunity to earn playing time as a walk-on at UCONN despite his unrelenting efforts, Easley didn't get regular snaps on the field until game six of his senior season. All that time on the sideline never altered his approach to the game.
"It just showed what can come from hard work," Easley said. "Walking on I just had to climb the ladder. You start at the bottom and earn everything and work your way up the depth chart and onto the playing field."
Offensive tackle Ed Wang had to master the position after he got to Virginia Tech as he was recruited as a tight end. Though others before him have been successful in making such a move and becoming NFL tackles, Wang never took his athleticism for granted.
"I had a lot of help moving from tight end to tackle," he said. "The coaches were very supportive and our tackles were also very supportive, and I worked at it. At first it was a little difficult but when I started getting used to it and used to the position I believe the transition was pretty smooth."
Battling to establish themselves at schools that weren't high profile was the challenge for Bills sixth-round picks Arthur Moats and Danny Batten. The two linebackers were selfless players taking on multiple roles for the good of their team.
In the end they finished first and third respectively for Defensive Player of the Year honors in the College Bowl subdivision (formerly 1-AA), with Moats ultimately winning the award.
"They are definitely getting a hard worker," said Moats of the Bills. "I definitely feel I'm going to bring a physical edge and a lot of speed to that defense.I feel like I'm definitely a big time performer on special teams right off the bat."
"He's a super competitive kid," said Bills scout Rashaan Curry of Batten. "He kind of carried the attitude that if a big school wasn't going to recruit him that he would go out on the field and prove himself. I thought he did that. And he did it in a big way."
Bills seventh-round pick Levi Brown had to climb depth charts his entire college career, often getting overlooked for the newest top rated recruit on campus. Never did he waver in making himself a better player each and every time he stepped on the practice field.
And fellow seventh rounder Kyle Calloway, after playing tackle almost his entire college career, willingly accepted a shift to guard in Iowa's bowl game against Georgia Tech when a fellow starter at that position was lost to injury.
Team first attitude, work ethic and perseverance are traits that Buffalo's entire 2010 draft class has within them, and those qualities figure to serve them well as the build themselves into promising NFL contributors.
"We think these guys have those qualities," said Modrak. "We thought they had the right makeup to want to continue to get better, and if they feel like they've got something to prove that adds to it. That's great."