INDIANAPOLIS – Travis Feeney says if he learned anything from his University of Washington teammates go through this process a year ago, it's to enjoy himself at the NFL scouting combine.
Granted, Feeney probably can't enjoy himself as much as Danny Shelton did last year, if only because the eventual first-round pick seems to have so much fun with everything, but Feeney and fellow Washington linebacker Cory Littleton are still doing what they can to make the most of their combine experience.
"We saw a lot of guys do it last year, especially how Danny did it having fun—I ain't going to have that much fun, I'm not going to be grabbing cameras and all that—but I'm going to have a good time," Feeney said. "… Danny said just have fun. Coach (Bob) Gregory texted me today, told me to just have fun with it, go out there and do your thing, fly around, but make sure you're having fun at the end of the day."
Unlike last year when the Huskies sent four players to the combine—Shelton, cornerback Marcus Peters, linebacker Shaq Thompson and linebacker Hau'oli Kikaha, all of whom were selected in the first 44 picks of the 2015 draft—this year Feeney and Littleton are the only two Washington players in Indianapolis, and both project as late-round picks or possible undrafted free agents.
But while Feeney and Littleton may not be high-profile prospects like their former teammates, what they do have on their resumes is the fact that they were big parts of one of the best Washington defenses in years. Despite losing so many star players, the 2015 Huskies improved on defense, and ended up leading the Pac 12 in both scoring defense and total defense.
"We definitely took that to heart," Feeney said. "Washington was known for defense in the past when they were really good, winning Rose Bowls, winning national championship. Defense was one of the main reasons why. You see the defensive players that came out of Washington, you've got ballers. We wanted to get that happening all over again. It started with Desmond Trufant's class. Those guys that I came in and looked up to, guys like Alameda Ta'amu, those are guys who mentored us, my 2011 class and helped us develop not only on the field, but develop as men as well, just develop a work ethic. Desmond used to always run like six gassers after practice, just seeing somebody like that, you see how hard they work, you see why they were first-rounders and why they're doing well in the NFL now. That work ethic doesn't end, it just continues. You try to do that yourself, try to push yourself, try to do extra workouts."
And even if Feeney and Littleton don't enter the league as top picks like their former teammates, they can look to another Husky, John Timu, for inspiration. Timu went undrafted last year and signed with the Bears, the spent part of the season on the practice squad before eventually working his way back to the 53-man roster and starting Chicago's final three games.
"He said it's a struggle like especially him being a free agent and then actually making that active roster," Littleton said. "You can't really get down on yourself but it's a grind and a process that you've just go to keep working and fighting and get yours."
Both Littleton and Feeney played multiple positions in college, bringing into question where they'll fit best in the NFL. Both, as expected, said they'd play anywhere asked of them, though Littleton noted he feels most comfortable at strongside linebacker. Feeney, who started his college career as a safety, has played everywhere from the secondary to linebacker a pass-rushing role last season.
"It's kind of a case of wherever they want me to play," Feeney said. "I'm open to everything. I want to an outside backer, I want to be covering, I want to be playing hook drops, I want to be covering tight ends. But whatever they want me to do, I don't mind getting after the quarterback either. I wouldn't mind pass rushing some plays and getting after it. A mix of that would be great for me."