Former Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall is now 15 years removed from his NFL scouting combine experience, but those days of auditioning and interviewing for his dream job remain etched in his memory.
So when he learned the NFL, out of concern over COVID-19, would scrap the 2021 combine — which would have taken place last week in Indianapolis — Marshall took action.
He wanted to ensure that the 20-plus athletes who had been preparing for the combine through his training facility, House of Athlete in Weston, Florida, still got a pre-draft experience and opportunity like he had in 2006, before he was drafted by Denver in the fourth round.
“It was an interesting process; it was a hard process — a lot of tension and stress, because this is the thing you dreamt about since you were 6 or 7 years old,” Marshall, the HOA founder and CEO, recalled this week. “I wanted those guys to be able to experience this … to show the scouts and the NFL what they have. This is the biggest stage, and if you take that away, what opportunity do they have?”
So this week, Marshall and House of Athlete are hosting their own combine-style event for draft prospects. He’s also doing his part to ensure that draft junkies get their combine fix — the event will live stream on FoxSports.com at 10 a.m. Friday. Footage will re-air on House of Athlete’s “Path to the Draft” series on Fox Sports.
Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond, Clemson running back Travis Etienne Jr., Georgia defensive back Eric Stokes Jr. and former UCF kicker Donald De La Haye are among the prospects expected to participate.
Under the direction of the facility’s director of pro performance, Mo Wells, the prospects will go through the measurables portion of the draft evaluation process on Thursday, doing the 225-pound bench-press test just as they would have at the combine.
On Friday’s broadcast, athletes will perform the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, broad jump, three-cone drill, short-shuttle drill and position work at Inter Miami CF Stadium. House of Athlete is bringing in former NFL head coach Hue Jackson and retired NFL players Chad Johnson, Fred Taylor, Channing Crowder and Ryan Clark to direct position drills.
Marshall even hired Zybek, the company that usually runs the timed drills for the NFL combine, to do the same for House of Athlete’s showcase.
“We’re going through third parties, making sure everyone understands these numbers aren’t cooked,” Marshall told USA TODAY Sports.
“It makes no sense for us to go through this whole live stream and big production to help these guys get to the next level, and then for the scouts and general managers and owners be like, ‘What the hell? This is not what you sold us.’
“We’re trying to continue this thing for years to come, and we went over it and want to make sure that when the scouts and general managers tune in, they’re getting the real, real.”
The day’s footage, shot by a professional film crew, will be sent to all NFL teams.
“The biggest thing we heard from teams (during planning stages) was wanting to know production is run right, results legitimate, that it’s produced well, organized and that they can take something from it,” Wells said.
“We’re not running an iPhone camera, digital recorder. We’re running a full-scale event that even the NFL Network would be proud of.”
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