There was no NFL Combine this year in Indianapolis, so Brandon Marshall decided to create a mini-version of the annual event to help showcase the would-be NFL players training at his House of Athletes facility in Weston, Florida.
"The toughest thing I had to do last year was shut down [after the Combine] because of the beginning of the pandemic," Marshall said this week in advance of his three-day event, which concludes Friday. "We’re in a better place as a country, and it’s an amazing opportunity to have a platform for guys who want to compete and to show scouts, general managers and coaches what they have."
Marshall had a much more traditional pre-draft experience when he came into the NFL as a fourth-round pick of the Broncos in 2006. He went to Indianapolis, along with more than 300 other draft-eligible players to be examined by the NFL’s scouting community, in advance of the draft. Marshall went on to a superb career with Denver, Miami, Chicago and the Jets before finishing his 13-year career with the Giants and then Seattle. And now he hopes to shepherd younger players into the NFL by replicating the combine experience at his training facility.
The three-day event wraps up Friday with six events, including individual position drills, the shuttle and the 40-yard dash. Close to 20 players are participating, including Clemson running back Travis Etienne Jr., North Carolina linebacker Chazz Surratt, Pitt quarterback Jeff George Jr. (son of former No. 1 overall pick Jeff George) and Tulane defensive end Patrick Johnson.
"Like everyone else with the pandemic, we had to pivot," said Marshall, now an NFL commentator on Showtime’s "Inside the NFL." "Some great ideas came to light, and this is a great platform to figure out where those diamonds in the rough are, where are those guys we should invite to regional combines to participate to show scouts and owners."
Marshall brought in representatives from the company Cybex, which partners with the NFL at the Combine to provide measurables for timed drills.
"We’re taking this thing very seriously," he said. "Cybex is the group that does all the testing for the NFL, so we’ll get accurate results."
Marshall said the event is following CDC guidelines for COVID-19 protocols.
"It’s about giving back," said Marshall, who has partnered with former NFL players Chad Ochocinco, Ryan Clark, Channing Crowder and others in the venture. "It’s an opportunity to show that we can be partners in this space. "Giving back is something that’s just natural. You might come into the NFL as a little boy, but you stay long enough, you’re a man. This is about how do we make the NFL better."