Shots from Friday's first day of workouts at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. (Credit: The Associated Press)
INDIANAPOLIS —** On the day that perhaps the best quarterback in this year's draft class commanded the attention of every media member, drawing them to Podium C like moths to a light, the third day of the Combine also had an array of players including the year's best linebacker in collegiate football, Eric Kendricks of UCLA.
Kendricks stepping out of his brother's shadow
Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Mychal Kendricks faced plenty of questions in 2012 about his height. Even when you're the Pac-12's Defensive Player of the Year, when you come don't meet the normal measurements, people wonder about the physical limitations so they ask questions.
His brother, Eric Kendricks, has faced some similar questions about his height, and to answer them, he says to look at his brother.
"How is he answering that now?" Eric says.
Mychal answered it pretty resoundingly, recording 264 total tackles, nine sacks, three interceptions and five forced fumbles in his three-year career to this point.
Eric will enter the NFL Draft this year with perhaps an even better resume than his brother. The UCLA linebacker won the 2014 Butkus Award for the nation's best linebacker as well as the Lott IMPACT Trophy, which is given to a player who shows great character in addition to spectacular athletic performance in collegiate football. And he's looking to prove wrong any detractors who look to his height.
"Measurables are one thing, but you can't measure explosion and you can't measure certain things people bring to the table like natural instinct and getting to the ball and that's what [Mychal] has," Eric said. "That's what I have."
Following in Mychal's footsteps through the Pac-12 to the NFL, Eric has seen himself come out from Mychal's shadow and become his own player even though he knows he'll never escape being tied in with comparisons to his brother.
"I've already created my own legacy," he said. "I mean, I'm Eric Kendricks, but at the end of the day I'll always be my brother's little brother."
The thing that sets him apart from nearly any linebacker here, though, is a very cerebral, intense preparation for games and understanding how it helps.
"I watch enough film and I do enough studying earlier in the week to know what some tendencies are and maybe formations—pattern formations," Eric said. "So when I get on the field I can play comfortably; I can play loose. So if I see something like that, if I see an open gap and I know they're going to run through that gap, I can cheat to it because I trusted in my preparation and I'm able to do that."
Once he figured out how to break down film rather than just watching it like a fan, Eric Kendricks found a way to improve to a new level.
CSU's Grayson working through thigh injury
Working out at the Combine for Garrett Grayson was supposed to be not only a career milestone, but also a special moment. Sure, he has loads of film behind his work, but this was meant to be the time when he can make a case before every team. Instead, he's just going through the interviewing rounds because of a thigh injury.
"Yeah, I'm extremely bummed, to be honest" he said. "This is something—as a kid—you always grow up, if you have an NFL dream, you always want to come here and perform well at the NFL Combine. It's something you always hear from the time you're little-little. So when it happened, I was extremely upset."
He suffered the injury while preparing for his 40-yard dash in a crushing twist.
"It happened last Tuesday. We were actually just testing our 40's and [I] just felt a pull. It is what it is at this point; I'm just trying to ace the interviews, do all that, do all I can do in the interview room."
But he expects to be ready by Colorado State's Pro Day on March 11 as it will be about a month at that time since he's done really any physical exertion.
Grayson put himself on the map this past season after improving upon his breakout year in 2013. Named a Heisman contender, he had thrown for over 4,000 yards with 32 passing touchdowns to only seven interceptions.
With Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota in what's considered a two-man race to be the first quarterback drafted, Grayson has positioned himself as a great option thought to be one of the best quarterbacks behind them.
And even though his injury won't let him show his skills at the Combine this week, what he's done on the field has said enough.
UGA's Chris Conley talks Star Wars
You've probably heard that filmmaker J.J. Abrams is heading up a new Star Wars movie, the seventh in the series. With a $200 million budget, the film is highly anticipated and sure to have a huge draw behind new direction after George Lucas led the first two trilogies of movies.
You might not have heard that Georgia wide receiver Chris Conley made a 26-minute Star Wars film of his own. It's on the internet, so naturally he expected questions about it, but he didn't expect it to be the first question.
He and his brother were introduced to the series by their father, and so they naturally gravitated toward it as they grew up and more films were added to the series, and with a new one on the horizon, he's excited for it, too.
"I can't wait for it, I'm excited for it. I'm pumped," Conley said. "We'll see what J.J. Abrams has done with his time and his money and I'm hoping it's good."
He also said he might critique it, but, obviously, he might be busy when it comes out. You know, with football.