The televised portion of the NFL Combine is like catnip for college football players who dream of going pro one day. Many of them watch it as underclassmen, all the while wondering how they’d fare themselves.
Such is the case for Missouri’s J’Mon Moore and Kansas State’s Byron Pringle, a pair of big-play wideouts who will finally experience what it’s like to go through the on-field portion of the event on Saturday, when receivers are scheduled to go through a variety of workouts at Lucas Oil Stadium.
One of the most popular events of the on-field workouts — doubles as an especially important event for Moore. The live-ball drill — nicknamed the gauntlet — challenges players to spring across the field and back, all the while turning from left to right and catching a variety of passes, from varying speeds, on the move. The drill is designed to give scouts a sense of how well receivers catch the ball naturally. Due to the rapid-fire nature of the drill and the number of balls they are asked to snag, there’s no room for thought, no room for contemplation — just pure, good-old fashioned reaction time and ball skills.
For Moore, a rangy 6 foot 3, 209-pound target who established himself as a long-ball threat with the Tigers over the last few seasons, the drill is an opportunity to shake the concerns scouts have shared with him about his penchant for focus drops.
“A lot of teams believe in my ability and some of the things I can do,” said Moore, who caught 127 passes for 2,094 yards and 18 touchdowns across the past two seasons. “You’ve just got to stay positive, go through the drill and catch the ball.”
To prepare for the combine, Moore spent his offseason training his hands by catching passes with gardening gloves. He also caught passes with an eye patch in hopes of training his eyes and keeping them on the ball, which has been a problem for him in his career.
“You can’t beat the system, you can’t cheat it,” Moore said. “You’ve just got to go out there and make it happen. (Catching with) the gardening gloves are really hard — extra slippery. You’ve got to really squeeze it.”
Likewise, Pringle — who declared for the NFL Draft after a junior campaign in which he caught 30 passes for 724 yards and six touchdowns — agreed that the drill is simply about focus. “It’s just catching the ball, basically, being able to focus and dial in,” Pringle said. “The gauntlet just tests your eye coordination. I used to always watch it last year and the years before.”
Pringle, however, is more concerned with running a fast 40 on Saturday — “They all think I’m slow,” he said with a laugh — and impressing NFL teams during interviews.
Many have already inquired about his past, which includes a criminal record based on a series of crimes he committed as a teenager, ranging from burglary, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and grand theft. Pringle, however, served four years probation and 100 hours of community service before landing at Butler County Community College, where he eventually earned a scholarship offer from K-State and has managed to stay out of trouble.
“They just want to know if I’m a changed man,” Pringle said. “I just want to give them information about me. “I know this is an outlet for me; it gives me happiness. It’s a way to provide a better life for my son so he doesn’t see the things I did growing up.”
So while both players will have different areas of focus on Saturday, both are equally grateful to even have the opportunity.
“It’s been a great experience — not everybody gets a chance to be a part of this,” Moore said.
“I want to be able to say I put my all into it when it’s over,” Pringle said.