Ex-NFL star organizes ‘combine’ for prospects

- Mike Jones

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 predraft experience and opportunit­y like he had in 2006, before he was drafted by the Broncos 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 livestream on at 10 a.m. ET 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 Central Florida 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 were to 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.

The day’s footage, shot by a profession­al film crew, will be sent to all NFL teams.

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