This is the second installment in a series of stories that will follow former Stony Brook star Miguel Maysonet on his road to the NFL draft.
At the NFL scouting combine, a four-day experience that included everything from a 4:30 a.m. drug test to Beethoven versus Picasso to a stunning amount of take-home swag, Miguel Maysonet received a standing ovation from an unlikely audience.
It happened during the orthopedic exam, one of the many poke-and-prod moments at the league's annual cattle show. A doctor, recognizing Maysonet, got close and whispered a question:
Are you the first player from Stony Brook to attend the combine?
The doctor stopped the exam, quieted the room and played the role of town crier, introducing Maysonet and announcing what he had just confirmed. The room, filled with about 25 people, applauded the accomplishment.
"That was pretty awesome," said Maysonet, relaxing Tuesday at the Stony Brook football office. "That was my favorite part of the combine."
Maysonet, who returned Sunday night from Indianapolis, took away many fond memories. The trip was somewhat unfulfilling because a lingering hamstring injury prevented him from running the 40-yard dash, but he felt he made a positive impression during interviews with NFL teams.
His goal was to sell himself as a person to prospective employers; his chance to sell the player occurs March 22, his pro day at Stony Brook.
"I know I can play in the NFL and have a good career," said Maysonet, who rushed for more than 4,700 yards in three seasons at Stony Brook. "I have confidence in my ability and my work ethic."
The trick is convincing an NFL team he can make the jump from the FCS level. Maysonet, projected as a possible late-round choice, is vying to become the first draft pick in school history.
After six weeks of combine prep at the TEST Football Academy in Martinsville, N.J., Maysonet figured he was mentally and physically ready for just about anything in Indianapolis. But there were still some surprises.
As soon as he arrived at the players' hotel, Maysonet was whisked away to a local hospital, where he spent three hours undergoing a battery of tests -- blood, urine, X-rays, flexibility, etc.
At the end of the session, he stood before a few dozen NFL types as a hospital official read his medical information to the room. It had a military-type feel to it.
It wasn't nearly as intimidating as the next day, when Maysonet wore nothing but athletic tights on a big stage, surrounded by hundreds of coaches, general managers and scouts. He didn't see any familiar faces in the crowd, just a lot of team logos.
He felt like a model at a beauty pageant, walking the runway as a discriminating crowd studied every inch of his body.
"They're all just staring a hole in you," said Maysonet, who measured 5-foot-9 and weighed 209 pounds.
Some of the running backs, looking for muscle flex, did push-ups backstage. Maysonet didn't go that far.
The combine is a head-to-toe evaluation -- literally. There was a concussion exam and a toe test. During the orthopedic exam, repeated six times for six different doctors, he was asked to curl his toes, up and down. Almost every body part north of the toes was tugged and flexed, as doctors searched for red flags.
On his first night, Maysonet got the chance to interact with NFL personnel, mostly running-back coaches. Teams are allowed to conduct informal and formal interviews with players, the latter occurring in the team hotel suites. The formal interview is a big deal, 15 minutes of face time with team brass.
No team requested a formal interview with Maysonet -- a reality check.
"I've been dealing with adversity my whole life, so it wasn't that big of a deal," he said.
But he was a popular man in the informal-interview room, speaking with 15 of the 32 teams. They hit him with general questions: Married? Kids? Do you have a drug problem? Ever been in trouble with the law?
A few coaches asked him to diagram his favorite play, using the proper terminology and explaining the assignments for all 11 players.
Maysonet chose a "stretch" running play to the right -- known as "Wisconsin" in the Stony Brook playbook. It happens to be the play that resulted in the signature moment of his career, a 71-yard touchdown run against Syracuse in which he hurdled a defender -- a "SportsCenter" highlight.
Not wanting to come off as arrogant, Maysonet didn't tell the coaches about the long touchdown. His objective was to convince the teams of his character.
"I'm dependable, that's what I emphasized," he said. "I'm not going to be the guy that's out to 3 or 4 in the morning, making a fool out of himself and you waking up in the morning and seeing me on TV, getting arrested."
Character matters, especially for lesser-known prospects. They can't make it on talent alone.
"It always helps a player if they have good intangibles and personal character," said one AFC scout, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "It usually leads to good football character, which leads to potential success on the field. This kid seems to have that."
Maysonet spent four hours doing interviews, getting pulled from table to table. He also taped an interview, with standard questions, that will be sent to every team. He was exhausted, but there was a quick turnaround -- a 4:30 a.m. wake-up call for the mandatory drug test. The early hour made for a lot of groans.
The next day felt like college -- five hours of exams. There were two intelligence tests, followed by two surveys, followed by a psychological test that nearly blew his mind, courtesy of the New York Giants. Maysonet said there were 380 questions and, unlike others, he finished the test, missing lunch.
"I was like, 'Oh, my God,'" he said, alluding to the enormity of the Giants' legendary test.
Sample question: Would you rather listen to Beethoven's music or watch Picasso paint?
As if that'll help determine whether he can block a blitzing linebacker.
"It's mental as well as physical," he said of the combine. "They've got you doing a lot of stuff. You could get annoyed very easily. There's a lot of waiting; it could stress you out."
Alabama's Eddie Lacy, widely regarded as the top runner in the class, was the resident funny man, keeping the mood light. Maysonet also got some free time and was able to enjoy a dinner with his agent, Joe Linta, who also represents Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco, a pending free agent.
That explains why Linta's cellphone never stopped ringing during the meal.
On Day 4, Maysonet finally hit the field at Lucas Oil Stadium. Because of the hamstring, he participated in only two of five drills -- the three-cone (7.21 seconds) and the short shuttle (4.43), neither of which he aced. Previously, he did 20 reps on the 225-pound bench press, putting him in the middle of the pack.
Being from a small school, Maysonet felt obligated to try some events. He didn't want to give the wrong impression.
"That could've hurt me or it could've helped me," he said. "We'll find out in the future."
It wasn't all testing, no play. One day, Maysonet taped a fun promo that will be aired on TV if he gets drafted. Basically, he held a football and hammed it up for the camera, hoping the world will get to see his smile April 27.
His favorite activity was a visit to the Under Armour hotel suite, where players were allowed to fill a duffle bag with swag -- clothes, sneakers, cleats, track cleats, sunglasses, gloves, hats and a jacket with built-in headphones. It sure beat the Nike suite, which offered only free haircuts.
"When you walked in there, it was just insane," Maysonet said of the free gear. "That's something I'll remember forever."
It felt good to be pampered. He felt like ...
Like a professional.