It's been called âThe World's Toughest Job Interview.â For six days at the NFL Combine (Feb. 24-March 2), college football's best will be measured, interviewed, tested, watched and analyzed by countless NFL coaches, general managers and scouts conducting all of their due diligence before the NFL Draft. To prepare, nearly two dozen prospects have traveled to IMG Academy for six-plus weeks of Physical, Mental, Communication, Nutrition, Vision and psychological training with Athletic & Personal Development program specialists and on-field training with some of the game's top football coaches.
As a Parade All-American out of Omaha, Niles Paul enrolled at Nebraska with the weight of the Cornhusker nation on his shoulders. He leaves Nebraska ranked 2nd in career kickoff return yards, 5th in career all-purpose yards, 5th in career receiving yards and 6th in career receptions. As he prepares for the NFL Combine, the 6-1, 220-pound receiver took time to discuss racing Prince Amukamara, dealing with pressure, spending entire days in the movie theater and how he almost never played football.
Niles Paul on...
...challenging Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara to a race: Prince is always talking trash. We've raced a couple times, but something always happens. The last time we were racing 60 yards and Prince almost pulled his hamstring. Before that, it was me, Prince, Taylor Martinez and (Nebraska receiver) Brandon Kinnie. Prince won that one. Barely. That was our junior year, when Taylor first got there because everyone thought Taylor was faster than all of us.
...his uncle and former NFL/Nebraska star Ahman Green: I've been fortunate to spend a lot of 1-on-1 time with him. I stayed with him a couple summers. I've picked his brain a lot about what it takes to succeed in the NFL and have a long-lasting career like he had. He talked about hard work, which is a trait that runs in our family. We're all so competitive that we want to be better than everyone else. The best advice he gave me? Keep your circle small. You've got a small circle of people that you'll leave college with and maintain them. Not everyone has your best interest in mind.
...expectations at Nebraska: Because I was highly rated recruit, people put a lot of pressure on me, even as a freshman. If I made a mistake, I think it was elevated to a higher level. That's tough as an 18-year-old, but I think I dealt well with it. This past season against Texas, I dropped a pass for a touchdown. A lot of people said some negative things to me after the game. The next game, I had one of my best games of the season (9 for 131 in a 51-41 win against Oklahoma State). It opened my eyes. I know my teammates and coaches supported me, but the experience humbled me in a way.
The thing that gets me is when people say I didn't have a good career at Nebraska. It's actually the exact opposite. I think I had a pretty good career there.
...what most fans don't know about him: I'm a very outgoing and fun person who likes to make people laugh and is fun to be around. If you're around me, you're going to have a good time.
Sometimes when I'm back home, I'll go to the movie theater and just stay there all day by myself. I'll watch one, go back out and pay for another movie and do that all day. One day, I was there from 12:30 to 9 at night. I asked my brothers to go, but nobody wants to stay in the movies that long. I just love watching movies. Gladiator is my all-time favorite.
...his late start to football: I've been running track and playing basketball since I was six. I didn't start playing football until I was a sophomore in high school. I was going to run cross country, but my dad and uncle (Ahman) told me I'd be good if I played football. I went out the first day for a scrimmage. I didn't have any cleats, just basketball shoes, and scored a touchdown.
...his NFL Combine goals: I set goals for the here and now. For the combine, I want to run a 4.3. The fastest I've been clocked is a 4.42 in high school. My start is incredible now. Coach (Loren) Seagrave has altered my start. I feel so much more explosive and much faster coming out. I've really changed my whole running technique. I think I'm going to shock a lot of people at the Combine.
And I want to break the receiver bench record with at least 26 reps.
...training at IMG Academy: The people here are awesome. Between Coach Seagrave and Coach (Jeff) Dillman getting us physically prepared, it's an incredible experience. I've been picking Coach Weinke's brain as much as possible to learn more about the quarterback position as a wide receiver. I didn't even know it was him at first. I looked up and saw his jersey framed on the wall in the weight room and thought, "Man, I'm catching passes from Chris Weinke!?"