Members of the 2014 NFL Draft class are best known for the body of work they’ve put together on the field. They’ve spent years adding to highlight reels that have been reviewed countless times by NFL scouts over the past few months. They will be judged on how well they’ve performed in college and how they’re projected to perform in the NFL, but some of the most inspiring story lines happen far away from the lights and out of the camera’s eye.
Read below to learn what has inspired and continues to drive 10 of the very best NFL prospects toward their NFL dreams.
Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
“My mom always told me not to quit. She never let me quit anything. When I played on the baseball team when I was younger, I was a good pitcher, but I just couldn’t hit the ball. I told her that I was about to quit playing baseball, and she told me that I should have never started playing if I was going to try to quit.
“So from that moment on, if I start something, I finish it. That’s what it’s all about. No matter how you start, it’s how you finish. Remember that. Don’t ever let anyone tell you different.”
Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
“My freshman coach in high school, coach [Joe] Hampton, guided me throughout high school and college. He was always there supporting me at every game, and he always talked about not only being a great football player, but a great person. That’s what I try to focus on: being a better person and doing things that can impact the lives of others.”
Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
“My high school head coach [Rodney Brewington] is one of the most important people in my life. I dug myself into a hole with my grades and worked my butt off to get out of it so that I could play college football. He’s the one that helped me to dig out of the hole and got me to where I am today.
“He always told me that I had everything that I needed to become a great player. I just had to go out there and get it. I basically took that advice and ran with it.”
Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State
“My mom is one of the big reasons why I play football. When it’s game time, she always would tell me, ‘go out there and handle your business.’ I always keep that in the back of my mind when I have a game coming up. I think of what my mom would say: ‘Go out there and give it your all.’”
Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
“I think about my best friends all the time, especially before games. They’ve been there since day one, and I know when I step on the field, they’re watching me. They’re focused on Taylor—not Taylor the football player, but Taylor Lewan the person—and that keeps me motivated.”
Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
“My dad played college football and coached me when I was growing up. He taught me pretty much everything that I know. He’s always been there for me and pushed me along the way. We had that relationship where, he’s very supportive but would also be the first guy on me after a game.
“My offensive line coach [Harry Hiestand] at Notre Dame has also been a huge influence on me. He’s pushed me to places that I didn’t know that I could go. Since he got to Notre Dame, he’s really taken my game to a new level, and I owe him a lot.
“We always talked about being consistent—being the same guy every day and being the best on command. You can joke around and have fun, but when it’s your turn to take a rep or when it’s game time, you’ve got to be at your best on command.”
Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
“When my pops passed away, my mom had to raise four boys by herself. She would wake up at three in the morning and work two jobs to provide for us, so I shouldn’t have a problem waking up early to do something that I love. She’s definitely my backbone throughout this process. She’s my rock, she’s my everything, and I don’t know where I would be without her.
“Also, my faith in God. I couldn’t do this without Him. I thank Him every day I wake up and every night I go to sleep. He’s making this all happen. He’s giving me a platform to be able to glorify Him and still giving me the chance to do what I love.”
C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
“There wasn’t one individual but rather my entire family back home in Mobile and also my family all the way from Chicago, because my parents are from Chicago. Since my freshman year, they’ve been to almost every game.
“It’s humbling to know that I went from a freshman that nobody knew, all the way to C.J. Mosley, the Alabama superstar. Especially with everything I accomplished at Alabama—the goals, awards and championships—I haven’t changed. I know that everything that’s been given to me is a blessing, but it can also be taken away from me. So the main thing for me is to stay humble through everything.”
Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
“There are a lot of people in my life, but I’ll definitely go with my dad, Vernon Shazier. He’s a pastor and a chaplain, and he’s instilled three words by which our family lives: faith, integrity and discipline. We have to live through faith, act with integrity and be disciplined enough to act within those things. I try to live with those rules through life and football and everything I do, and I feel those principles really carry me on to be the man that I am right now.”
Trent Murphy, LB, Stanford
“More than anyone else, I attribute my good character to my father. Growing up, he was a role model to me. He took it upon himself to make sure that all of his kids were raised right—that they were gentlemen and respectful—but they were also going to be the toughest kids on the block.
“He’s imparted tons of wisdom and lectures to me. The biggest thing is to focus on what you can control, which in any situation is your attitude and your effort. If you always have a great attitude and give as hard as an effort as you can, you’ll always end up being in a great position, whether that’s winning or having a dominant performance. If you control your attitude and effort and bring that every day with a relentless approach, then you’ll be in a good position.”
Photos: Eric Mull (Clowney) // Edward Linsmier