A year ago, Avery Williamson walked into the NFL Draft combine and made a statement. That resounding performance echoed his production on the field while at UK. He'd eventually get drafted in the 5th round by the Tennessee Titans, and validated their assessments by earning All-AFC South Rookie of the Year. This week, it's the next generation's turn. Four former Wildcats will have the same opportunities to impress the personnel from 32 NFL teams at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine in preparation for the NFL Draft beginning on the 30th of April. Those four Wildcats are Bud Dupree, Za'Darius Smith, Darrian Miller, and early entry Braylon Heard.
Good luck to my bros this weekend #BBN #StoopsTroops pic.twitter.com/mlf7jUkN4D"— Ryan Timmons (@Rimmons_5) February 19, 2015
The combine actually kicked off on Tuesday as the kickers, tight ends, and offensive linemen registered, went through their interviews, and got measured. The other positions will filter in through Saturday with the defensive backs bringing up the rear. The drill work begins on Friday which includes: 40 yard dash, bench press (max reps with 225 pounds), vertical jump, broad jump, three-cone drill, and the shuttle run.
If you have the NFL Network, coverage began on Wednesday and runs through the entire proceedings. Don't have the NFL Network but want to follow along? The NFL is making things easy with a live stream. If you're interested in the assessed strengths and weaknesses of UK's players, NFL.com provides their opinions:
This is a big weekend for the entire group. Dupree has a real shot at first round money; Smith is looking to build on the momentum he created for himself during the all-star circuit; and both Miller and Heard want to build the case they will fit on NFL rosters. Miller probably will make the transition to offensive guard, while Heard probably appeals to offensive schemes emphasizing running backs catching out of the backfield.
I'm not sure which of these players trained in Lexington for the combine like Williamson did last season. Here's hoping, for the sake of the prestige, they all stayed in Lexington with Erik Korem and post huge numbers this weekend. There's a lot of money on the line, and making a 53 man roster can make for a huge pay day. The NFL's league minimum in 2015 is $435,000 a year for a rookie. Making the 10 man scout team is worth nearly $100,000.
The path towards the realization of childhood dreams, and the budding of a well-sized retirement nest egg, begins with the workouts and drills tomorrow. If you'd like to follow SB Nation's wider coverage of the NFL Draft I definitely recommend Mocking the Draft.