Miguel Maysonet never missed a game during his four-year college career, but after becoming the first player in Stony Brook history to be invited to the NFL scouting combine starting Thursday in Indianapolis, the running back popped a hamstring while practicing 40-yard dash starts during his first week of workouts in January.
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The injury cost him a chance to play in the prestigious East-West Shrine Game and showcase his talents as the best back at the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) level against major-college competition. It also will prevent him from running the 40-yard dash -- a vital measuring stick for NFL personnel experts -- a week from Sunday when Maysonet is scheduled to go through a series of six physical skills tests along with 37 other running backs among more than 300 invited players.
Maysonet, who is working out at the TEST Football Academy in New Jersey, placed his hamstring condition at 75 to 80 percent healed but said: "I'll be able to do some stuff at the combine. I probably won't be running the 40. I don't want to go to the combine and run a really bad time and embarrass myself. I'd rather get it better, so I'll probably just run at my pro day."
His "pro day" is scheduled for March 21 at Stony Brook, where Maysonet will be joined by a few Seawolves teammates in a workout for NFL scouts. It's not uncommon for top players from major schools to postpone their 40-yard dash until after the combine, but it's worrisome to a player from a lower tier fighting for respect, even though Riverhead's Maysonet was runner-up for the Walter Payton Award as FCS Player of the Year.
"I don't know what impact it will have," Maysonet said. "They make it seem like it's a big deal, so I guess it is . . . It's different for me because I'm from a smaller school, so they're probably going to look down on me for not being able to do it. Not everyone runs the 40, but if they're from a big-time school, scouts will still look at them."
The hamstring injury may have raised Maysonet's anxiety level, but his talent can't be ignored after he rushed for 1,964 yards and scored 23 touchdowns last season.
The drumbeat leading to the NFL draft April 26-28 began last summer when Maysonet started hearing from agents, including those representing current NFL MVP running back Adrian Peterson of the Vikings and former Steelers running back Jerome Bettis.
"There were too many agents coming at me left and right," Maysonet said.
Picking the right agent is critical for a draft prospect, so Maysonet sought counsel from Stony Brook football coach Chuck Priore, who introduced his agent, Joe Linta.
"He didn't nag me like a lot of guys did," Maysonet said. "I told him after our last game that I'd sign with him. Joe's been in the game a long time, and he's had a lot of I-AA guys. It shows. He deals with you and not just the big guys he represents."
Top-notch agents know how to prepare their clients for the combine and market their skills to NFL personnel before the draft. "I helped in the process, but Miguel made the decision," Priore said. "When you have success with second-tier kids, that's the perfect person to sell a Miguel. He has great respect. He can help build a career, not just position you for the draft."
Linta encouraged Maysonet to join a group of his clients in workouts at TEST Football Academy in Martinsville, which has a well-established program geared specifically to preparation for the six physical tests -- 40-yard dash, three-cone drill, shuttle run, vertical jump, standing broad jump and 225-pound bench press reps -- and also for the mental challenge of the Wonderlic test, psychological exams and personnel interviews they will undergo.
"Every hour of every day, we know where they're going to be, what they're going to be doing and why they're going to be doing it," said Geir Gudmundsen, TEST co-director for NFL players and the NFL combine. "Everything is towards the biggest job interview of their life. You have one shot, and that's what we're preparing them for."
Maysonet began the TEST program right after New Year's Day, moving into a nearby condo, where meals are provided as part of the nutritional program, along with weekly maid service. Players work out six days a week, perfecting their techniques for the drills and meeting with a psychologist, nutritionist and other experts who explain what to expect at the combine.
Last week, former four-time Olympic medal sprinter Ato Boldon worked with prospects, not only on their 40-yard dash technique but also on how to save time in the three-cone drill. Boldon said his goal is to shave two-tenths of a second from a prospect's 40 time.
As for Maysonet's injury, Boldon said: "When a guy is injured, I say, 'The first thing is to not panic.' The greatest stress these guys put on themselves is the worrying about whether the injury will affect their draft status. If your technique is right, even if you have missed training, you are going to run very, very fast on the day you have to perform. Just worry about getting that leg better as you progress toward the actual day."
Now that the combine is upon him, Maysonet said he's not nervous, just eager for the experience. "I've been doing it for so long now, I know you've got to perform," Maysonet said.
"It's exciting to be one of the few people that were chosen to actually go to the combine. Being the first person from Stony Brook, being the first person to come out of Riverhead to be able to get a shot to go to the combine, it's always good to be the first to do something. Hopefully, people back at home are excited for me. It's good for me to be out here representing them."