There's not only one way to impress scouts and coaches at the NFL Combine. What goes on behind the NFL Network's coverage is often more important than the measurable attributes.
Although he didn't test all that well in the on-field drills, former Hokies linebacker Bruce Taylor was able to gain the interest of numerous NFL teams because of the abilities that can't be measured. Taylor and four other former Virginia Tech players, wide receivers Corey Fuller and Marcus Davis and offensive linemen Vinston Painter and Nic Becton all participated in the NFL Combine in Indianapolis Feb. 21-26 in hopes of attracting NFL teams to draft or sign them afterward.
"The actual testing stuff is just a small part of what they are evaluating you on," Taylor told HokieHaven.com. "Of course it helps when you test well, but guys like myself aren't very good testers. My best part was being able to sit down with NFL teams and talk football. They definitely saw my smarts just from meeting with them. I think that's what I do well - I know the game - and being able to show teams how much I understand how to play was huge."
Although he recorded the slowest 40-yard dash among the linebackers at the combine, Taylor said NFL teams that he interviewed with knew the former vocal leader of the Hokies has all the intangibles needed to make it to the next level. Taylor said he interviewed with over 10 teams at the combine, and that the Jacksonville Jaguars stood out as an organization that appeared to have the most interest (specifically, a great chat with linebackers coach Mark Duffner).
Taylor also said that he hopes to improve his testing numbers at Virginia Tech's pro day March 20, but won't forget the time he spent in Indianapolis.
"It was a once in a lifetime opportunity," Taylor added. "It's something that I'll look back and remember fondly."
While Taylor impressed with his off the field knowledge, other former Hokies at the combine caught the eye of scouts in the more popular fashion. Fuller, who said before the combine he was concentrating on his 40-yard dash time, tied for the seventh fastest time among the wide receivers at 4.43 seconds.
Davis also impressed in all of the physical testing. Among wide receivers, he tied for the highest vertical jump at 39.5 inches and also was sixth in the bench press with 19 reps (225 pounds).
Painter arguably improved his draft stock the most among the five Hokies that were in attendance. He tied for sixth among the offensive linemen with 32 reps in the bench press, had the fourth-best vertical at 30.5 inches, and surely opened eyes with his 4.95 40-yard dash (tied for fourth-best).
"I felt great about everything," Painter told HokieHaven.com. "I enjoyed every minute of it, especially being on the field with the top guys in the nation. The meetings were pretty nerve-wracking at first, but once I got the first one out of the way I was comfortable."
The Hokies fifth combine tester, Nick Becton, wasn't a stand out in any of the testable categories. But his strong technique along with his size and strength bode well as he was the Hokies highest-rated player entering the combine according to NFL.com.
The hard work isn't over yet. All five players will participate in the Hokies' pro day in front of NFL scouts. There's improvements to make before then, but it appears every Hokie that participated in the combine has a good chance at the next level.