INDIANAPOLIS--The NFL Scouting Combine came to a close Monday with defensive back workouts, bringing to a close an important week of prospect evaluation ahead of next month's draft.
Among the hundreds of NFL hopefuls taking part in this year's combine were seven University of Washington players, two each from Washington State University and Eastern Washington University, and a few other players who are from the state. With the combine wrapping up Monday, let's take a look at what some of those local draft prospects had to say during their time in Indianapolis:
Washington receiver John Ross
Ross made a name for himself at the combine, breaking Chris Johnson's 40-yard dash record Saturday with a blazing-fast time of 4.22 seconds.
And Ross had a feeling he could break that record, saying a day earlier, "I'm going to try. I am going to try. I don't want to say too much. I'm going to try. I'm going to give it my best... Under 4.3. That's what I plan to run."
Despite that time, however, Ross wanted it known that he is more than just a speedster: "That was one of my big emphases coming in. I didn't just want to be just a speed guy. I wanted to use my speed to help me get better in different ways. So that is what I did. Focus less as a speed guy and run just intermediate routes and just playing better than what people thought I would.
On what he has learned from DeSean Jackson:"Basically how to use my speed. When to turn it on, when to turn it off. Growing up, I never had anyone to monitor me on that. I just was basically running out there. I was so gifted with speed; I just used that versus a lot of people. As you get older, a lot of people get faster and a lot of people get smarter. You just can't run past everybody. People's techniques change and everyone gets better."
Washington safety Budda Baker
On what position teams see him at: "They just said they like my film, whether it's free safety, nickel. They feel like I can rush off the edge, play man, make open field tackles. They just ask me what I want to play."
On where he thinks he's best: "I mean for me I feel like I'm equally proficient in all those types of things. I feel like I can be in a post player type defense or I can play in the box."
On being called similar to Earl Thomas and if he watches anyone else:"For me it's Earl Thomas as well, just because I love Earl Thomas the way he plays the game. Whatever he is doing he is always next to the ball, wreaking havoc. So Earl Thomas, and I watch Tyrann Mathieu because of his versatility; he can play corner, nickel or safety and he has been playing that. So those two guys."
And Baker's admiration of Thomas isn't a one-way deal. Thomas took note of Baker's impressive performance when defensive backs worked out Monday.
Washington tight end Darrell Daniels
Daniels was part of a tight end class that impressed at the combine—he ran a 4.55-second 40-yard dash, and showing off that athletic ability was a priority at the combine.
"Definitely my speed and my playing ability—definitely going to try to showcase that because I don't really have that much film coming out of college,'' Daniels told the Seattle Times.
"This (tight end) class is deep, man. To be around these guys is great and there is definitely going to be a lot of competition out there. I see myself competing with them and I'm going to be one of the top guys, too.''
Washington cornerback Kevin King
What's it like to play alongside another great cornerback in Sidney Jones? "It's great, the competitive nature, and you want to do as good as he's doing. I want to do the same thing. We battle, and we make each other better. So to have another guy like that, plus Budda, playing with other guys like that in a defense is amazing. You don't have to worry about them as much, and you can focus on your game and your technique. Just zoning in on yourself. That's when you start messing up, when you try and do too much. I put my trust in all 10 guys on defense, that they're going to get the job done."
What does Budda do for your defense? "That's my guy—he's a dog right there. He's a leader. He's one of those guys, the way he plays is the way he practices every day. I'm sure you guys have heard that. The way he always brings it every day at practice is contagious. So, if he's doing that, I'm like, 'Okay, I've got to do that.' The linebackers and D-line, everybody knows their jobs and gets to the ball."
What does your size allow you to do that some other cornerbacks can't do? "Disrupting receivers, especially those bigger guys, as well as those smaller guys. And really, everyone wants to go up and get the ball. You're really defined by the plays you make, and our job on defense is to score and get the ball back on offense. Everybody looks at the guys who go and create plays and turnovers, and that's what makes the defense great."
Did you study anybody in the transition back to cornerback? "I watched (Richard) Sherman and some other bigger guys who have similar body types to me. Playing man, and playing the types of schemes that we play."
Do you watch a lot of Seahawks tape? "We watch a lot. I would watch some on my own. Our defensive backs coach, Jimmy Lake, he used to coach in Tampa. He coached Aqib Talib and Ronde Barber, so we watched a lot of their film. I've watched a lot of Ronde Barber in the nickel spot."
Washington cornerback Sidney Jones
On what makes him the top cornerback in this class: "I'm a lockdown corner. I'm an all-around corner. I give you instincts, ball skills and great football IQ. I'm a team player."
On coming up and making plays against the run:"I'm very aggressive. That's something I take pride in. I used to be a free safety until my freshman year of high school, so being a hitter has always been something that is in my heart."
On how high former Husky cornerback Marcus Peters has set the bar for young corners like Jones: "He's setting it pretty high. Him and Desmond (Trufant). We're going to put out a lot of cornerbacks at the University of Washington. Those two guys, myself, Kevin King, and a few others, we're going to do something special."
On comparisons to Marcus Peters: "Our press technique, we're pretty similar in that sense. We also went to the same school, so that's where it comes from too."
On feeling like playing at Washington prepared him for the NFL: "Definitely. The University of Washington prepares you for the NFL. Jimmy Lake does a great job with the defensive backs and the other coaches are great as well."
On how he's able to stay so relaxed on the field:"Never panicked, never shook, that's just my personality. I feel like it flows onto the football field, being just a calm person and just staying relaxed in all situations. Never be shook, never be panicked. I don't care if somebody beats you, you come back and make a play and help your team for what you gave up if you ever gave up anything. And just stay calm throughout the whole game but play with an intense swagger."
On his first thought after seeing John Ross' 40-yard dash time:"I had just gotten out of the MRI, so I was like, 'Oh my God.' I was kind of late on seeing it and everybody else had got the great news. I'm just happy for my brother. Just watching your blood, sweat and tears, somebody who you grind with doing something amazing like that. It was just a great opportunity for him. It was great seeing that."
On pro cornerbacks he watches on tape: "I watch Marcus Peters, Richard Sherman, Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu."
On why he should be considered the best cornerback in this draft class:"I'm a lockdown corner. I bring everything to the table. I'm an all-around football player. I bring great ball skills to the table, instincts and high football IQ."
On what it's been like going through the draft process with teammate Kevin King:"Kevin King, that's my guy. Left, right corner. I've been with him for three years now. He's watched me grow. I've watched him grow. He was a safety last year in nickel and now he's an outside corner. Just watching his athletic ability and seeing that and watching him grow as a player and as a leader too, that was something special to see."
Washington defensive tackle Elijah Qualls
Are you surprised by John Ross' 4.22 40?"No. I knew he was going to break it. I honestly thought if everything was 100 percent, he'd break 4.2. I heard a couple stopwatches got him in the 4.1s, so I wasn't surprised about that at all."
What do teams ask you about? "Why I was standing up so much, why I was playing outside backer and things like that. Not in a bad way, but everybody's just curious. Obviously I'm an interior lineman, so everyone was just curious why my team had me playing outside linebacker. I just explained to them that a couple of people got hurt, and I knew the scheme as well as everybody, so why not put me out there and have three of your best D-linemen on the field at the same time."
What do you do well as a DT?"I for sure stop the run well. And I'm actually a lot better pass rusher than a lot of people think. Typically a lot of our game plan as far as pass rushing was to keep the quarterback contained, so I really couldn't get after him like I'm capable of. I'm not going to say I'm one of the best pass rushers ever or anything like that—I've only been playing defensive line since I got to college, I'm still learning—but I'm a lot better than a lot of people do think."
What position did you play in HS? "I was a running back. I was 260 playing running back in high school. I had 1,300 rushing yards though. It honestly became too easy, that's why I switched to defensive line. Scoring touchdowns wasn't exciting to me anymore, it was just something I expected. Then my last year, my coach came to me and said, 'Hey would you be willing to play some defense?' My mindset was that if I played defense, I could get the ball back. So I played some defensive line, middle linebacker. I was recruited at both of those positions. I kind of just did a little research project trying to see what the long-term was like for both running backs and defensive linemen, and defensive linemen tend to last longer, have less severe injuries, and honestly on average probably make more money, so I decided to be a defensive linemen. Plus I like the challenge."
What kind of scheme do you fit best into?"I don't fit the prototype of many players, but I feel like I can fit into any scheme. I can do anything you ask me to, I played everything from zero to outside linebacker, so there's not much I can't do. It's just whether or not someone can accept me being a couple inches shorter than the person they prefer playing there. But I'm stronger than a lot of people, and my football intelligence is top-notch."
Do teams like that you played so many positions?"No one didn't like it, they were just curious as to why. A lot of people were like, 'That was the reason you actually stood out, because you were able to play many positions and be productive. That's what I've always done. In high school I played basically everything except defensive back. That's what got me into college, versatility has always been a friend of mine."
Photos from the on-field workouts of NFL hopefuls with ties to the state of Washington.
Washington State receiver Gabe Marks
On playing in a "quirky" offense at Washington State: "It's not quirky, man," Marks said, via the Seattle Times. "There is nothing quirky about the offense. We just throw the ball a lot. But everyone throws the ball. We run the same routes as everybody. We're not running like 'OK, run to the flag pole over there and then turn around at the car and I'll throw it to you.'
"Guys are trying to call us 'system receivers' like that's a thing. It's not a thing. You've still got to do it. It doesn't matter the system that you are in. You've still got to catch the ball. Somebody has to catch the ball and score the touchdowns. If you just put some guy out there that couldn't play, it wouldn't work. I just get an opportunity to catch more passes—I can understand that. But I'm still getting open. So the whole 'system receiver' thing kind of bothers me a little bit."
Washington State safety Shalom Luani
Talking to the Seattle Times Sunday, Luani called the combine "a huge experience for me. It's been great being here, getting this opportunity to put myself out there. Just looking forward to proving I can do it.
"I told (teams), I'm just an aggressive person, playmaker and a ball hawk. I like to be around the ball and come down and make plays… I feel like I belong here. I've overcome a lot of obstacles. I've worked my way up here."
Eastern Washington receiver Cooper Kupp
On what he has to show at the Combine having played at Eastern Washington and not a big school:"Yeah, I'm not trying to prove anything to anyone, I guess. I'm just being down here to be the best me that I can be. I believe in the receiver that I am, I believe in what I bring to a team, I think it's something that no one else brings, the reliability, the versatility someone who is going to be productive play in and play out so I'm just here to be the best me that I can be and I believe that's going to be plenty."
On the advantage of being a late bloomer:"It's everything. A lot of these guys are great athletes, have been blessed with that at a young age so they naturally excel. They were blessed with great height and great strength and great speed, I wasn't. I had to work for everything I got and I learned that at an early age and it was really a blessing in disguise because I had those traits, I knew what it took to be great and when my body stared to catch up that stuff stuck with me and really created me into the player I have been."
On if he would have a higher profile if he had gone to an FBS school:"You know, I'm not sure but there would definitely would be that no one would have that question anymore of can you play against what is perceived as higher level talent week in and week out. But for me I have played against higher level talent, I have played against Pac-12 schools and I have been very productive against them so for me I am the same player I am today if I would have played there. So as a coach if you are looking at that you are getting the same player. The film might be against a different opponent but the player is going to be the exact same."
On when he thought playing in the league was realistic: "This is something I've dreamed of since I was young and even when I wasn't developing as a player—my freshman year I was 5-4, 119 pounds and I had two pound ankle weights on both ankles, and I believed whole heartedly that I was going to see this day, that I was going to play in the league and perform at a high level. I had to go through a lot of coaches telling me I needed to change my goals for myself. But that's the way I set my goals, I set my goals laughably high and I want to pursue those things and my work ethic off the field is going to reflect the goals I have for myself."
USC tackle and Tacoma native Zach Banner
On being from Tacoma: "I'm from the east side born and raised. I like to say that there's a lot of people counting on me, but they're just counting on me to just keep doing what I've been doing, so there's really no pressure. I get to focus on football. I finished school now—down the line I'll think about a masters—but right now I'm really focused on football.
"The east side is not the best part of town. I wear where I'm from with pride in terms of my tattoos. The artwork I display is one of the things I'm proud of, because being from there, we didn't have NFL players from our side of town, bottom line. My Eastside Boys and Girls Club got shut down… I didn't have that person to look up to, but ever since high school when I had 373 community service hours coaching and speaking to kids, to now working with Metro Parks (Tacoma) to open up a community center on the east side, I'm bringing awareness to that. There's a lot of things, but I'm focused on football and everything will take care of itself."
On being one of the best tackles in the draft: "I do believe in myself as the best, and I think it shows in my game tape, I think it shows in my film, only allowing a couple sacks during my whole career, and not allowing any pressures in my last, what eight games or something like that. I don't know the stats. I'm not here to brag about myself, I'm here to prove myself with my actions. I want to perform for these NFL teams, I just want to show them that I love football and I'm good at what I do. With that being said, I'm very excited to perform and I hope it shows some coaches what I can do."
On his weight:"353, eight pounds down from what I was at the Senior Bowl. It's about 30 pounds down from what I was the day after the Rose Bowl, so I think it's great. I'm definitely going to continue to get it down. I see myself being around 345 by Pro Day, and I see myself even being lower before the draft. And I'm going to keep it down now that I have the means and resources. I have a great nutritionist, a great chef. We had a lot of great things at USC also, but just to be honest, I was a broke college kid that followed the rules. With that being said, I'm glad to have the means, and I've also learned a lot, I've matured, so it feels great to be a pro.
What have you learned about nutrition:"That if me and you go get a burger, I'm going to gain five pounds and you're not. That's what I've learned about nutrition. It's easier than you think when you have the means and money to pay for it. I have an awesome lady named Ms. Daniel who comes three times a week, cooks meals and puts them in my fridge, and I just eat it. And it's great stuff. It's not like just frozen vegetables and dried chicken breast. It's steak, it's good veggies, you heat it up for two minutes and it tastes like a five-star meal. To understand that food as a fuel, things like that, it's just small things. And you know what the great thing is, you're not asking me about felonies. I didn't hurt nobody, I didn't punch nobody. Coaches, everybody loves me, including the media. I'm happy that we're talking about something I can control and I have under control."
Do teams tell you they want you at a certain weight? "They just say, 'We're going to find that weight.' I performed at a top level in college playing 345, and I performed at a top level at 380. I don't think college was an issue, I was really dominant and I was really happy about that. It's just, we want to take away it being an issue in the league. There's people who eat themselves out of the NFL, and that will not be me, plain and simple,and I explained that to coaches."
On how things went at USC during his career: "If I had a chance to change my school, I wouldn't do it, 10 times out of 10, 100 times out of 100. The things that USC has done has gotten me ready for the NFL. If somebody's fired, I've had four different head coaches, I've had five different offensive line coaches. For me to be able to personally, and as a team, finish the way I did and the way we did, it pays respect to the team, to our leadership, to coach Helton as a coach, to all those things. I was really proud of myself because I was able to take things from each coach and put it together to make my game unique."
Have you talked to the Seahawks? "Yes I have, a couple of times. A lot of coaches who are there, they were my third offer (at USC) my freshman year of high school, so it's kind of awesome meeting with those guys and talking to them. It feels good, and it feels good to talk to all 31 other teams, which I have at least once. It's a very exciting time."
Did Pete Carroll offer you at USC:"He was my third offer my freshman year of high school."
Have you thought about playing in Seattle? "Back home, heck yeah, it'd be great. But I have a feeling that, just with how personable I am and with how hard I work, I want to affect whatever community I end up in. Here's the thing, Tacoma, Guam and Los Angeles, no matter where I play, are going to be a prime focus."
Have you crossed paths with fellow Lakes HS grad Jermaine Kearse: "Great player, great hard worker. He went undrafted, and now he's on his second contract—balling. We have a great relationship. Every time I'm back home I see him, we talk. He's just a really good person, and he's obviously a mentor. So whatever team I end up on in the National Football League—if I'm blessed enough to play in the National Football League—I'll be excited to stay in contact with such a great player and great person."
Colorado quarterback and Tacoma native Sefo Liufau
What do you have to show scouts: "I think one of the biggest questions coming in, and my biggest weakness honestly, has just been being able to be consistently accurate. It's really big for me to show that I can go out there and throw the ball with great consistency."
How do you do that? "How do I do that? Put the ball in the right spot for the receivers every single time."
How have you spent your time working on that before combine? "I've been training in Portland, Oregon, with a guy by the name of Alex Bright, he used to play at Washington State. It's about getting my footwork down, getting my shoulders in the right spots and being able to do it subconsciously. I'm not so worried about my drops anymore from under center, so I'm real comfortable doing that. It's just a matter of repetition and working on your craft all the time.''
On his arm strength: "Just by showing it here and pro day … and when I hopefully get the opportunity to possibly make a team, show it in camp. The most important people to impress are those teams."
On his toughness:"Probably started when I was hanging around my dad and his Army unit all the time. You really weren't allowed to complain or cry or anything like that it kind of built a mental toughness in you. You just have got to keep going, to keep playing, keep fighting. Probably started in the third or fourth grade."
How you get connected to Alex Brink: "My uncle, Jack Thompson, he had a connection there and he hooked us up. I feel like I've learned a lot from (Brink) and gained a lot from him."
On the particular things Brink has helped the most with: "The biggest thing is accuracy and that comes from getting my shoulder and my feet in the right spot and being able to do it subconsciously and being able to do it consistently, all the time. In the NFL I think the first thing is probably accuracy. You can probably flip on some tape and I probably make some great throws and on the flip side you can see some throws where what the heck this guy sucks. Just being able to be consistent and get the ball to my playmakers."
Stanford receiver and Gig Harbor native Michael Rector
On talking with Stanford players in the NFL:"I've talked to Doug (Baldwin)," Rector told the Tacoma News Tribune. "I talk to (Richard Sherma) a couple times, but Doug more so just because he went to Stanford and he plays receiver. He talks about the underdog role, how he went undrafted and how he has a chip on his shoulder all the time."
On the weirdest questions he heard at the combine: "What was your best blocking game? As a receiver you don't think the first question they are going to ask you is about your blocking game. My response was, 'Put up any tape from Stanford. We run the ball. A lot. So the blocking game is big.'"
On what he is telling NFL teams: "That I'm a good guy just willing to work hard and do whatever I can to help the team's success. However big, however small the role is, I just want to compete and help contribute to the team's success."
On having a chip on his shoulder: "I feel like I do. I feel like I definitely am an underdog. I feel I am going to go out there and show the world what I can do. I think just coming from Stanford, being a receiver, we don't get the same opportunities as some wide receivers that run the spread. And I knew that going into it, so I'm OK with it. But I feel like I can do what everyone else is doing."
Take a look at the professional football prospects with ties to the state of Washington who received a formal invite to the 2017 NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Ind.