Ohio University RB Maleek Irons tries to shake a tackle by Howard University DB Tye Freeland during the Bobcat’s season opener at Peden Stadium on Saturday, September 1, 2018. (Haldan Kirsch/WOUB)

Bobcats in the NFL!

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Friday nights in the Fall include flashing lights, crowds cheering, and the clock patiently ticking waiting for the final play. For many players, their last game is during their senior night, for a select few it’s only the beginning. According to Pro Sports, the ratio of “high school senior players who go on to play NCAA men’s football is about one in 17 or 5.8 percent.” While the ratio of high school senior players drafted by the NFL is “nine in 10,000, the chances of NCAA senior players drafted by the NFL is one in 50 or 2 percent.”

The Injury That Cost Everything.

For Joe Anderson, an offensive guard for Ohio, preparing for the draft wasn’t an easy road. On March 28th Anderson suffered a lower leg injury. Those close to Anderson such as Joe Lowery were saddened by the news but were hopeful he would bounce back.

“You know Joe is one of my best friends we probably Facetimed about three hours a day when we were training so to see that happen to him and see all of his hard work and him not be able to show that I felt really bad about that. It really hit deep especially hearing him go down like that and I know he’s gonna bounce back. Joe, he’s a hard worker and a hell of a player, so I know he’ll do great.”

According to the Athens Messenger former Ohio running back, AJ Ouellette expressed his disappointment and hopes that Anderson still has a shot.

Ohio University RB A.J. Ouellette cools off on the sidelines during the Bobcat’s season opener at Peden Stadium on Saturday, September 1, 2018. (Haldan Kirsch/WOUB)

“When he went down my stomach turned inside out. I almost got sick right there; he’s been training three months for this one day. I just hope his film showed enough. I loved running behind him the last couple of years,” he added. “I hope a team takes a shot on him because he’s a great person and a great O-lineman,” Ouellette said.

According to an interview with NFL Draft Blitz,  Anderson said his injuries weren’t severe enough to ruin his chances of making it into the league.

“I hurt my ankle on the vertical.  I rolled it when I came down on it.  I have been recovering for the last two weeks, and I am running again.  I should be 100% the week before the draft,” Anderson says.

Anderson prepared for the draft day by training at Boost performance in Nashville Tennessee, while also training with a strength coach at Ohio and rehabbing his ankle.

Training Day

According to Forbes, the first step a player takes while preparing for the NFL draft is signing with an agent. The process begins immediately after a college player’s bowl game, that is when they become eligible to sign if the player’s team doesn’t make it to the bowl game the process begins at the end of the final regular season game in November. The reason why players quickly sign to agents after their last college game is to begin training for the NFL, and their school’s Pro Day. The agent’s role is to help aid and secure a training site for their client and  is “responsible for the training expenses and costs associated with the player’s training destination.”

The facilities offer weight rooms, meal plans, housing, and position specific instruction. For example, the quarterback prospects will work with a specialist that trains quarterbacks every year. While other positions such as running back and safety will receive similar instruction from either a former NFL player or coach. The daily training is crucial because the specialists are advising the prospects on the previous experiences they have gone through with the draft and the NFL. According to Forbes, the facilities help prepare players for the Wonderlic exam; they also provided chalkboard work where players “focus on the X’s and O’s of their college playbook, and how their position responsibilities may change at the pro level.”

An example of a Wonderlic exam that test logic, math and verbal reasoning.

The Wonderlic exam is a timed 30 to 50 question exam that professionals give before interviews. According to Beat the Wonderlic, this exam will test the applicants logic, math, and verbal reasoning skills. This exam can be taken offsite, and it is not proctored. It is administered before players come in for an interview. The average score for the exam is below 50%, and less than 2% of the test takers finish the exam before the time is up.

The Love of The Game

Despite the setback, Anderson said to the NFL Draft Blitz that his main focus is losing weight to be a better player.

“Getting my weight down.  I played at 342 this season.  Now I am at 320 pounds. I am a lot more comfortable. I lost the weight the right way, and I did it the right way when I started training for the draft.  It made me more explosive and athletic,” Anderson says.

Although his chances of being drafted took a hit, Anderson’s love of the game goes more profound than the money. One of the reasons why he enjoys football is because of his teammates.

“The team aspect.  I love being around the guys. I enjoy the whole brotherhood with the guys,” Anderson says.