Football camps and combines can be a tad intimidating.
Every player wants to perform well enough to stand out from the crowd and get noticed by college coaches. But such events are usually short, often lasting just a day or two. And let’s face it—not everyone can clock a 4.3 40-Yard Dash or jump a 41-inch Vertical. But superhuman athleticism isn’t the only way to make a positive impression at a camp or combine. One guy who knows all about that? Super Bowl champion Marques Colston.
The 10-year NFL veteran entered the 2006 NFL Combine as a total unknown out of Hofstra University (then a 1-AA program, Hofstra’s football program is now defunct). Colston didn’t blow anyone away with his raw athleticism, but he showed enough during the workouts and interviews to convince the New Orleans Saints he was worth a seventh-round pick. He’s now the franchise’s all-time leader in receiving yards and touchdowns.
STACK caught up with Colston to glean his tips for standing out at a camp or combine.
1. Preparation Equals Confidence
Performing well in the high pressure environment of a combine can be tough. But doing it when you lack confidence? Well, you might as well not even show up.
The best way to build confidence before an event is to prepare the right way. Train hard, practice the drills and hone your technique. Make adjustments to learn what works best for you during each drill. The more experience you have with the drills themselves, the more comfortable you’ll be when all eyes are on you during Combine day.
“Trust your preparation,” Colston says. “Go into it with a level of confidence that you’re prepared and that you’ve prepared the right way. I think you see guys freeze up sometimes when they second-guess and doubt the work they’ve put in to get to that point. If you prepare the way you’re supposed to and you’re confident in your preparation, that’s going to show in the events and competition.” Even if you don’t blow coaches away with your results, they’ll take note of your confidence throughout the event.
Not sure of the best way to prepare? Check out our piece on mastering the six crucial football combine drills.
2. Carry Yourself The Right Way
Everyone wants to run fast and jump high, but those aren’t the only attributes coaches evaluate at a Combine. They also look at your personality and how you carry yourself throughout the event.
You want to put your best foot forward. Stand up straight. Look people in the eye when they’re speaking. Introduce yourself not only to coaches, but also to your fellow players. Listen to directions. Give great effort on every rep. Be a leader. “Coaches look at the holistic player. The measurables are one thing, but coaches read a lot into body language, attitude, those intangibles,” Colston says. “That speaks to coaches in a different way.”
If you don’t record the result you want in a particular drill, the last thing you should do is mope or allow yourself to get negative. If you take pride in yourself as a person and as a player, coaches will take notice.
RELATED: 5 Training Secrets From an NFL Combine Coach
3. Keep All Your Doors Open
Combines and camps are just one part of a larger picture in college football recruiting. One great showing probably won’t earn you an offer from Alabama, and one bad camp won’t immediately kill your dreams of playing college football. Every player’s situation is different, so the best thing you can do is keep as many doors open as possible throughout the process. Treat every coach you meet with respect, even if they aren’t necessarily from your dream school. You never know what your best option will be when it comes time to put pen to paper on signing day.
“I’m a guy who wasn’t a five-star recruit, didn’t go to a 1-A school, no SEC or ACC. What that tells me is that everyone develops at their own pace,” Colston says. “I chose Hofstra and it worked out for me. The perceived biggest opportunity isn’t always the biggest opportunity at the end of the day. I think during recruiting, a lot of people get tied up in the big name schools. They want to be able to wear that hat on commitment day. But it’s more about understanding where you’re at right now and where you want to go.”
Following up with the coaches you met at a combine or camp after the event via email is a good idea, as it shows them you’re interested and serious about playing football at the next level.