Football players dream of advancing in the sport.
They dream of signing to play for a major college, of winning championships and of landing on All-America teams. They dream of getting selected in the NFL draft and of starring on the sport's ultimate stage.
Tashawn Bower dreamed of something else, too.
“You dream," he said, "about going to the combine."
Bower, a former LSU outside linebacker/defensive end, is one of a nation-leading 10 former Tigers set to participate in the NFL combine in two weeks in Indianapolis, the school announced Monday. NFL.com revealed the full list of combine participants Monday morning, but the post was quickly removed.
In a statement, LSU announced that its 10 invitees are tied with Alabama for most in the Southeastern Conference. The SEC led all conferences with 66 attendees.
Nine former Tigers will join Bower for the event Feb. 28 to March 6: safety Jamal Adams, running back Leonard Fournette, receivers Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural, cornerback Tre’Davious White, defensive lineman Davon Godchaux, center Ethan Pocic and linebackers Duke Riley and Kendell Beckwith.
Beckwith’s participation is somewhat a surprise. He suffered a season-ending knee injury in LSU's second-to-last game of the regular season. A projected second-round draft pick before the injury, Beckwith skipped the Senior Bowl to continue rehabilitation at an EXOS facility in Pensacola, Florida — the same site where Fournette is training.
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The combine is a weeklong showcase where college players perform physical and mental tests in front of NFL coaches, general managers and scouts. Not all of the attendees participate in every event. Those recovering from injury may skip events, and others only participate in the off-the-field portion of the combine — meeting with scouts and coaches, for example.
Bower admitted to being partially surprised when an invitation found his inbox a few days ago.
“I figured I’d be on the last tier of invites. Getting the invite itself, I was like, ‘Oh, I can’t believe it!’ ” he said. “It’s something that, as a kid, you dream about. I was happy, humbled and grateful for the invite. What I do there will help or hurt me. It gives me another opportunity to talk to teams and show them my football knowledge and perform in their drills.”
He has been practicing for those drills for the past six weeks at the Authentic Performance Center in Denver. He’ll fly into Indianapolis on March 1 and fly out March 5, hoping his four-day experience improves his draft stock.
Bower, a 6-foot-5, 255-pound New Jersey native, is listed as a sixth- or seventh-round selection in CBSSports.com’s prospect rankings. He began training in Denver a week after LSU’s Citrus Bowl victory Dec. 31 against Louisville, focusing on his 40-yard dash time.
“I want to be in the 4.6s,” he said. “I know I’m close.”
Bower lives in a house with three other former college players about 10 minutes from downtown Denver. They all follow a similar, grueling schedule: two 90-minute workouts each day for six days a week. There are less grueling assignments, like a daily visit to a recovery center, weekly massages and acupuncture sessions.
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The workouts vary in focus. Monday’s drills, for instance, are geared toward leg explosion and the “get-off” of the 40-yard dash, he said. On Saturday, he might work on his top-end speed, focusing on the back part of the 40. Some days are even designated as “beach-body workouts,” he said with a laugh.
“You know — upper body, arms and chest,” Bower said.
After the combine, he’ll continue his training in Baton Rouge with LSU’s staff and participate in the pro day on campus during the first week of April. That pro day should be a busy one.
LSU is expected to have as many as three players selected in the first round of the draft, set for April 27-29 in Philadelphia. Fournette and Adams are projected by most as top-15 picks, and White is a first-round selection in some mock drafts.
Pocic, Godchaux, Dupre and Dural are all expected to get drafted in the early to middle rounds. Even a few ex-LSU players who did not land combine invites could see their names called, including defensive end Lewis Neal and defensive back Dwayne Thomas. Riley and Bower are potential late- to middle-round selections.
The Tigers are expected to challenge their school record of nine draft picks.