To show what the scouting combine has become to NFL hopefuls, Drake Dunsmore took his degree in communications from prestigious Northwestern and started his life in the real world by moving to Denver so he could spend six weeks working with performance coach Loren Landow.
All in hopes the former Northwestern Wildcats H-back could shave a tick or two off his 40-yard dash time, leap another half inch in the vertical jump and muscle up an extra rep or two in the 225-pound bench press.
And it's working. Dunsmore is a smooth route-running, soft-handed prospect who is projected as a Chris Cooley-Dallas Clark type — "I hope that's the projection," Dunsmore said, smiling.
Dunsmore arrived in Colorado five weeks ago with his 40 time listed at 4.68 seconds. He ran a 4.58 on Thursday at the South Suburban Sports Dome, where Landow conducted a mock combine for 30 pro prospects.
"The first thing Loren does is make you want to weight lift and run for him," said Dunsmore, who is here at the recommendation of his Colorado Springs-based agents Doug Oomen and Craig Domann. "His attitude and his knowledge are real motivating. And then he's good at teaching you the little things: running with technique, footwork, arms, things like that."
To people watching the NFL scouting combine for the first time, the event looks like a series of Stupid Human Tricks. Friendly advice: Never eat lunch while watching offensive linemen perform the standing long jump.
But a strong performance in the combine can mean one round higher in the NFL draft, which can mean thousands, if not millions, more dollars in the bank account.
Dunsmore, Oklahoma State receiver Josh Cooper, Missouri receiver Jerrell Jackson and North Dakota State offensive lineman Paul Cornick are the four prospects in the Landow group who have been invited to the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, which will run from Feb. 23-28.
Each of the other 26 — including Colorado's Rodney Stewart, Tyler Hansen, Josh Hartigan, Ethan Adkins, Evan Harrington and Travis Sandersfeld; Colorado State's Jake Gdowski; UCLA receiver Taylor Embree (son of CU coach Jon Embree); and Wyoming's Brian Hendricks and Josh Biezuns — is here with the idea of catching on with an NFL team as an undrafted free agent.
Even combine invitees aren't guaranteed of getting drafted.
"My agent was straight with me, saying I would probably catch on as a free agent," said Jackson, whose agent is Matt Striegel of the Boulder-based Ascent Sports group headed by Jack and Tom Mills. "But getting invited to the combine was a blessing and real nice surprise."
Landow's mock combine included the media, who also will be present in Indy. Virtually all the players performed a tad worse Thursday than they did the previous week — which Landow expected.
"I wanted these guys to be reminded of what happens when you try too hard," Landow said. "When you try too hard, you don't do as well. By having the media and other people around today, it adds stress, adds competition, and those are the times you have to remember your technique."
Mike Klis: 303-954-1055 or firstname.lastname@example.org