Clive Walford is preparing for his his second season in the NFL after a solid rookie campaign in Silver and Black, but just a year ago, he was an NFL hopeful getting ready for the most important job interview of his life – a weeklong gauntlet of interviews and on-field drills held at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
The 2016 NFL Scouting Combine officially kicks off Feb. 23, and although Walford now has a season of professional experience under his belt, he still remembers much of his experience from a year ago.
"Pretty much everything about it," Walford said when asked about his memories of the Combine. "Just the hard work and dedication leading up to it, and actually going through everything. Staying up late, having to go on time and meeting with all those coaches."
As it's constructed now, the Combine is composed of six on-field drills that prospects participate in, by position, for the watchful eyes of scouts, coaching staffs and general managers, and in many cases, the results have the ability to either hurt or hamper a player's draft stock.
In Walford's case it helped a lot.
"I wasn't really surprised because I knew all along what I was capable of doing, it was just a matter of showing the world what I was capable of doing," Walford said. "Certain scouts don't get the chance to watch you in college, and watch some of the things that you actually put out on film, so in doing it in front of them, they get see firsthand what you're capable of. I knew I was going to go out there and do my best and give it my all."
However, while the former Miami Hurricane's results in the drills definitely helped his case to be drafted, he did admit that sometimes people can get too wrapped up in just the numbers, particularly when the 40-yard dash is involved.
"Speaking on the 40-yard dash, it's pretty much overrated," Walford explained. "It's a gift and a curse. Some guys, speed kills, you have some guys that are really fast, but can't catch the ball, or can't turn their hips really well. I feel like they just put too much pressure on young guys trying to run fast and not actually do the entire combine, do everything."
In reality, the on-field portion of the combine makes up a small portion of what occurs throughout the week, as the rest of the time is spent meeting with different organizations.
"Physically, I wasn't as tired, but mentally I was," Walford said. "You stay up late, and then you have to get up early in the morning. The first day we got there, the following morning we had to get up at like 3:30 or 4:00 in the morning. You don't get back to your room until maybe like 10:30 or 11:00 at night."
One of those combine meetings in particular stood out for Walford; his meeting with the Raiders.
"My meeting with the Raiders was awesome," Walford recounted. "They told me I had a good meeting right after we finished the meeting, and the scout actually told me that they were very interested in me and looking to draft me."
Seemingly nothing is off limits during these interview sessions – Walford was asked about an experience he had in the fourth grade during one session—but it was a more traditional question that the Belle Glade, Fla.,-native remembers vividly.
"[A team] asked me why I should be the first tight end drafted, and I just told them, 'because I'm a dog,'" Walford said. "They didn't ask me what kind of dog, when I said that, that just kind of blew them away."
A year removed from his combine experience Walford has had time to think back on it, and if he had advice to share with his younger self, it would be quite simple.
"Bring your A game," he said. "Be as healthy as you can be, be as hydrated as you can be, and go show the world what you're capable of."
He continued, "Self-confidence is the best confidence. When you believe in yourself, nothing else really matters."