INDIANAPOLIS—Mack Strong wasn't a highly-touted prospect coming out of the University of Georgia, so he didn't get to experience the NFL Scouting Combine as a player. Strong did, however, enjoy a 15-year NFL career, so he has plenty of insight to offer to current NFL hopefuls going through this year's Combine.
Strong's standout career, which saw him twice earn Pro Bowl honors and block for three different 1,000-yard rushers, makes him more than qualified to dispense advice to college prospects, which is why he is here this week as part of the NFL Legends Community, serving as mentor to running backs and fullbacks at the combine.
"I never had the opportunity to be invited to the combine, I wasn't drafted, but I do know what it's like to be in the National Football League and have a long career," said Strong, who is one of 13 NFL Legends serving as a mentor this week. "So I just share some of my thoughts and hopefully pearls of wisdom with the guys who are coming out now."
Some of what Strong talks to players about this week is football-related, but there are plenty of important life lessons to pass along this week that have nothing to do with Xs and Os, but that can make the difference between a short career and a long, successful one.
"They go hand-in-hand," Strong said. "You've got to have an attitude of just really wanting it. You've got to want it bad. There's a lot of guys who are here that are going to be competing for the same spot. There's only so many spots to go around—there are 33 running backs here, and not all of them are going to get drafted, not all of them are going to make an NFL team, but it's probably going to be the ones who are able to stay healthy, who can compete at a very high level, give everything they have, and also show themselves to be good citizens, be the type of player that teams want on their football teams."
Running back is considered a strong position in this year's draft, and Strong likes what he has seen, on and off the field, while working with this group.
"I like it, it's a talented group, football-wise, and these are great young men off the field," Strong said. "I only get a little bit of interaction with them over the course of three or four days, but it has been valuable time. From the top players like Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey, to guys who probably won't end up getting drafted, it has just been great getting to know these guys and share my story, but also just being available for them to ask questions about things, bounce things off of, stuff like that."
Strong said he has seen a few backs "who look like they can bang around a little bit," but he also will tell those fullbacks that they need to be able to do more than just block a linebacker to open a running lane if they're going to make it at a position where fewer and fewer NFL jobs are available with every passing year.
"Nowadays, I think for a fullback to make a team, they really have to be versatile in a lot of different areas," Strong said. "Obviously blocking, but they've got to be able to play special teams, pass protect, run the football, catch, because it's a passing league right now. There are very few teams like the Seahawks who want to emphasize the running game; they want to pass the football. As a fullback, if you want to get into the National Football League right now, you've got to be a little bit more versatile and on the athletic side."
When Strong isn't on the road representing the NFL Legends Community, he is back home in Pullman where his family now lives—his wife, Zoe, is a professor at Washington State University—and he said life on the Palouse is treating him well.
"It's a unique situation, my first time living in a college town," Strong said. "Everything revolves around the school. It's cool to expose my kids to that. It takes me about five minutes to get from my house to literally sitting in a seat in the stadium, that's including parking. I enjoy it, it's a great experience. My wife is enjoying being a professor there. I definitely root for the Cougs, even when they play UW… I'm enjoying being over there and being a part of Coug Nation."
With the 2017 NFL Combine underway, take a look back at some current Seahawks at their own NFL Combines.