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NFL Combine Notebook: Day 4


A handful of images of NFL Combine prospects Denver might be considering in the 2015 Draft

INDIANAPOLIS — **The 2015 NFL Scouting Combine wrapped up its four-day media availability with the select elite players who were invited to show their talents to scouting groups from every team. While workouts will continue until Monday, defensive backs were some of the last to do media availability, along with some holdovers from the group of defensive linemen.

Mario Edwards Sr. and Jr. an inseparable duo

Seminoles defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. listens to 95 percent of what his father says. Mario Edwards Sr., another former Seminole who won a National Championship and went to the NFL, is his son's closest friend, a confidant in addition to being a coach.

"Me and my father have a great relationship. He's my best friend," Edwards Jr. said. "He's someone I can go to as a coach, someone I can go to for advice and having him at Florida State has been great. So if I ever needed anyone to go talk to outside of a coach, he was always there."

So, then, what is the five percent that he doesn't listen to?

"I mean, just being a kid," he said. "You think you know everything when you get a certain age, but he always tells me he's been 18, 19, 20, 21. I've never been 38, 39. So he brings me down to reality real quick."

His father also is Florida State's Director of Player Development and their relationship allows Edwards Jr. to have someone close and dear to him who can also give him some of the most valuable advice as he progressed through his first three years and began to weigh a decision to leave school early.

But first, they noticed a difference in his play that they wanted to correct. Edwards Jr. had bulked up to nearly 300 pounds and it had affected his play in his junior season.

"I sat down with my dad. I watched film from my sophomore year and I watched film from my junior year, the beginning of the season and I saw a totally different player," he said. "I wasn't explosive, I wasn't fast, quick-twitch, anything like that. And so we sat down and we literally said 'This isn't you.'"

So Edwards Jr. went about changing his diet, getting advice from his dad on how to do it.

"So I went and made a change, changing it, not eating past certain times, not eating fried foods or whatever, whatever it took to get me trimmed back to the athlete that I knew I was," he said.

As he prepared to make the jump to the NFL, he consulted his dad and they thought the timing was good and his talent was clearly ready. His father had always seen his son's potential and knew that he was realizing it and the time to move was now.

"Just growing up, my dad would always say, you know, 'Mario, you have the talent, you have the type of physical set that you could be a three-year-and-done guy,' and I bought into it and I listened to him," Edwards Jr. said. "I listened to pretty much 95 percent of everything my dad says. He's never steered me wrong so if he told me I was able to do it, him going to the college level and to the NFL level and seeing all types of talent, if he can sit there and tell me at a young age that I had what it took, I trusted him."

Testing the Sample

On-the-field shots from Saturday's NFL Scouting Combine workouts at Lucas Oil Stadium (Credit: The Associated Press)

With nearly the entire Louisville starting secondary at the NFL Combine, the Cardinals clearly had plenty of talent in their defense.

But for safety James Sample, the path wasn't so clear-cut. Originally signed at the University of Washington, Sample didn't get much playing time as he tried to work his way up in the lineup.

It was extremely grueling but understandable work, but what compounded his problems was a labrum tear in his shoulder he suffered at the end of his senior year in high school. It was misdiagnosed as a deep bone bruise and Sample ended up just trying to play through it and figuring that it would heal at some point. Eventually it got diagnosed correctly and he had to have surgery.

He said it severely limited how high he could lift his arms, so I asked how high he could lift them at the time. He said he couldn't lift it above his waist. he couldn't raise it above his head or to the side.

Yet he played on, spending two seasons at Washington until a coaching change left an unrepairable rift between them. The coaching staff was recruiting players to play over him and said he wouldn't see the field much.

So Sample parted ways and headed to a junior college, after which Louisville recruited and signed him.

"I believe they put a lot of trust in Cort Dennison, the GA," Sample said. "He showed them my old high school film and then he told them I was a heck of a player when I came to UW. Injuries held me back from really showing my potential."

After finding a school that wanted him, he finally realized that potential, making 90 total tackles with four interceptions as part of the No. 6 team in yards per game allowed in the FBS Division.

Having lost his way early in school threatened to derail him, but Sample had remained focused on a path to take. He got back to a Division I-A school but he still had to prove something to himself.

"When I transferred back home, I had the mindset of that when I got back D-I, I was going to do everything that I could in my power to get back playing at a high level and be able to go to the next level."

A Hulk of a player

Without doubt, a question that always gets asked at any combine interview session is who they model their game after.

For Ellis McCarthy, that person isn't a current player or even a player from the past.

He models his game after the Hulk, he said. "Violent and destructive."

You see, McCarthy's a big comic book guy. He got into reading them in high school after being introduced to the games.

So, first big question: DC or Marvel?

"[Marvel], definitely. They're a lot stronger," he said. "They've just got better characters like the Hulk. There's probably a lot of stuff about the Hulk you don't know that makes him much stronger than, like, Superman or something like that."

Wait, wait wait, I said. Before we went any further, I had to know: stronger than Superman? How?

"There's a bunch of stuff. He basically can't die if he stays in his form," McCarthy explained. "He has telekinetic power, he can breathe underwater. That's a couple facts about him why I think he's stronger. I mean I don't know how strong his punches are but that's what I got."

With so many players at the Combine, you're bound to learn something and that was easily the most interesting quirky thing I heard from a player all week.

And for him, he admitted it was the weirdest question he had ever gotten, which was definitely a success for me.

"Yeah, definitely, but I brought it up," McCarthy said.

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