We didn’t ask, but the NFL is telling us why Tennessee football has been in the doldrums.
The league will conduct the annual scouting combine in Indianapolis this week. Three hundred thirty-eight college players have been invited to demonstrate physical and mental skills through a variety of exciting quizzes, tests and examinations.
A few hundred general managers, coaches and scouts from the 32 teams will do personal evaluations. Conclusions will supposedly influence the draft. Truckloads of money await.
As you might expect, former Southeastern Conference players are a major attraction. Alabama will have 11 representatives, Georgia and Ole Miss nine each, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi State and Texas A&M eight, Auburn, LSU and Missouri six, South Carolina five, Arkansas four and Vanderbilt two.
By now, you may have noticed what is missing. No Volunteer was invited.
This hurts my feelings and it doesn’t say much for Butch Jones’ recruiting and development program.
The NFL guest list is not definitive. Thirty-eight players who did not participate at the 2018 combine were drafted. Surprisingly, 118 who jumped through all the hoops were not drafted.
Neither I nor the scouts regard many of the 13 departing Tennessee seniors as genuine pro prospects. Injuries reduced Shy Tuttle’s chances. Some others who arrived as four- and five-star prospects didn’t live up to expectations. The cold, hard truth is some just didn’t get much better.
I think Kyle Phillips belongs in Indianapolis. Obviously, the NFL does not put a lot of stock in what I think.
Phillips, 6-4 and 270, was a defensive end for the bumbling, stumbling Volunteers, 28 tackles, 28 assists, five quarterback hurries, four passes broken up, one fumble forced, one recovered, one kick blocked and one highlight.
Be reminded of the pass he picked off against Alabama. He and the Crimson Tide were surprised. He showed coordination to catch the ball while engaged with an offensive lineman and fierce determination to get into the end zone. Kyle ran 27 yards for a touchdown. He almost got tackled five times.
Some of us smiled and admitted it didn’t have much to do with the outcome, but it was one of my favorite plays of last season. So, the pros were not as impressed.
Phillips was SEC lineman of the week for his robust performance against Auburn. I suppose that, too, mattered more to me than to “them.”
I like Phillips for other reasons. His mother, Teresa, is athletic director at Tennessee State. Kyle came with specific instructions to go to school. He made the SEC honor roll.
I liked his positive attitude, his declaration that the past would not determine his future.
I remember some past comments … that God gives everybody battles and “I can handle whatever He sends my way.”
He said a lot of people have had it worse than he has “and a lot of people wish they were in my position.”
By not going to the NFL scouting combine, Kyle Phillips will miss standing around in his underwear, the comprehensive medical exam and drug screen, penetrating interviews, the 40-yard run for your life, the dreaded bench press (how many times can you lift 225 pounds), the broad jump and vertical jump and three-cone agility test.
Maybe you know about the Wonderlic test Kyle will miss. It supposedly discovers who can read and think at the same time. Low scores brand you for life (Vince Young, Travis Henry, Cordarrelle Patterson, Ray Lewis, Jim Kelly).
High scores can cause ego expansion. Eli Manning will tell you it didn’t affect him, but he scored higher than Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Tony Romo and Peyton Manning.
I have never been convinced that the scouting combine is a fair measurement of NFL potential. I still think how a man performed in SEC combat is a better yardstick. Phillips was generally a winner on a losing team.
He’ll just have to find a different doorway to pro football.
(Marvin West invites reader comments or questions. His address is email@example.com)