"If you're not sweating when you step up to the line, then you're not ready to run the 40," says coach Ken Vick, advising a group of 20 or so NFL prospects at Velocity Sports Performance in Irvine Calif. prior to the 2013 NFL Combine.
Cordarrelle Patterson has completed his speed warm-up and performed a few practice reps, but he's hardly broken a sweat. He's sporting a gray, long-sleeved Volcom tee, matching gray compression shorts, and tangerine-orange adidas adizero 5-Star Prime cleats with fuchsia-colored socks imprinted with the words "Wild at Heart."
It's a tense moment. The Combine is 12 days away and Patterson, the highly ranked wide receiver, is struggling to refine the mechanics of his 40-Yard Dash start.
"Let's go CP! Aggressive arms!" commands Vick, referring to the forward-and-back arm action needed to explode out of the blocks and begin the drive phase of the sprint.
Patterson propels himself from his starting stance. His arm action is aggressive but slightly inefficient. He is swinging his limbs across his body rather than forward and back, which causes his upper body to sway side-to-side as he transitions from the start to the drive phase.
Trying to compensate for his imperfect start, Patterson shifts into an extra gear down the stretch and squawks as he crosses the finish line, expressing disappointment with his performance.
The long-framed DE staggers toward Vick, the high performance director of Velocity's Combine training program, to get his time. The wireless timing system had clocked him at 4.38 seconds, a remarkable time for a player of Patterson's stature. Yet he shakes his head disapprovingly before returning to the line to put in extra work on his start technique.
At the Combine, Patterson clocked a 4.42-second 40, placing him in the top five among wide receivers. He was also a top performer in the jumping events. His strong showing has folks around the league wondering, "Just how good can Patterson be at the next level?"
It's a worthy question. Patterson possesses elite size and speed, but he played only one year of major college football after transferring from junior college to the University of Tennessee for the 2012 season. Yet at UT, he was a multipurpose threat, starting all 12 games at wideout, lining up in the backfield on occasion and returning kickoffs and punts.
Although scouts rave about his downfield speed and ability to take the top of a defense, Patterson says he's more than just a vertical threat. "Once I get the ball in my hands, I can do so much with it," he says. "I think that makes me stand out from other receivers."
The scary thing about Patterson isn't what he's done to date; it's his potential to be a mismatch nightmare in the NFL. He says, "I think I can be that No. 1 receiver wherever I land."
Photo: Tennessee Athletics
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