On the morning of the 2014 NFL Combine, something didn’t feel right. After a month of arduous training in Houston for the biggest scouting showcase of his career, Jeremiah George’s legs were as wobbly as an old rocking chair. His body felt fatigued. George, Iowa State’s former middle linebacker who led the Big 12 in tackles last season, was gassed.
“I could tell when I was warming up,” George said. “I started to feel what felt like a strain as I was warming up for the 40. As I ran, I couldn’t pick up my speed.”
And just like that, on the day when George was supposed to impress every relevant NFL scout in America, he pulled a hamstring and crawled to a disappointing 4.91 40-yard dash time. At that point, the undersized linebacker then faced an even larger uphill climb than he did before (despite an impressive performance in the bench press of 28 reps).
“That was the lowest point of all of this,” George said of the process leading up to the start of this week’s NFL Draft. “I really trained hard for the combine. I was training six days out of the week with only one day of rest. I think that really came back to bite me because I wasn’t getting the proper recovery.”
The path to the draft has been quite the up and down journey for George. Big-time college athletes are often coddled to a certain extent. In the college game, everybody around is looking out for the student-athlete and wants them to do well in life. Draft preparation is as real as life gets for an athlete. Strangers poke and pry regarding your career on the field and your personal life off of it. Oddly enough, that’s been the high for George, who views the last few months as the greatest personal growth experience of his life.
“I have experienced how professional you have to carry yourself,” George said. “I have experienced very harsh criticism from some scouts and very high praise from others. I’ve really had to learn how to balance out taking criticism and learning from it from taking praise and not letting it go to my head.”
On that day at the NFL Combine, life knocked Jeremiah George down. But the former Cyclone got back up. George returned to Ames to work with his old strength coaches Yancy McKnight and Clayton Oyster in preparation for Iowa State’s Pro Day that was held on March 25. It was in the Bergstrom Indoor Practice Facility where he improved his 40 time to 4.66. His bench press number jumped from 28 to 30.
“Everything happens for a reason and that (combine experience) opened my eyes up a little more as to how important it is to make sure you are getting the proper recovery,” George said. “I was miserable for probably 24 hours but after coming back to school and talking to Yancy McKnight and getting a plan together to make sure my legs would come back and I would be ready for the 40 again, I was excited and ready to attack it like nothing ever happened.”
Now, draft week is here. George recently returned home to be with his family as like every other potential draftee, he is unsure of what his future holds.
“I’ve heard from two GMs who do have a fifth-round grade on me but one of those two said that they won’t take me in the fifth-round because they have other areas that they need,” George said.
As is always the case, the bottom half of this weekend’s draft is expected to be a total crap-shoot. Realistically, George could be a sixth of seventh round pick. Or, like former Cyclone linebacker Jake Knott a year ago, he could be picked up as a preferred free agent.
“My gut is telling me that I will get drafted but if I don’t, it won’t be the end of the world,” George said. “I’ll have a lot of options. I’ve heard from a lot of teams that are really high on me and if I don’t get drafted, will want me to come to camp.”
The last few months have been stressful for George both mentally and physically but one thing is for sure. He is now a better man for it.
“It will be something I can look back on and this helped make my characters stronger and my mental toughness a little bit better,” George said.
Check out CycloneFanatic.com on Saturday for details on George and the 2014 NFL Draft. We will keep you updated on his status.