It's been called âThe World's Toughest Job Interview.â For six days at the NFL Combine (Feb. 22 â Feb. 28), 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, more than two dozen prospects have traveled to IMG Academy for six-plus weeks of Physical, Mental, Communication, Nutrition and Vision training with IMG Performance Institute specialists and on-field training with some of the game's top football coaches through the IMG Academy football program Football Academy.
He took a circuitous route that included a two-year break for a religious mission to Spain, but Mark Asper not only worked himself back into game shape -- he excelled as a lineman in the complex and daunting Oregon offense. Now preparing for the NFL Combine, Asper talked about making the SportsCenter "Not Top 10", the fastest Ducks player and serving as Phil Knight's bodyguard.
Mark Asper on...
...SportsCenter moment 1 (the Heimlich incident): The team went to Lawry's for the "Beef Bowl" eating contest, as per tradition with the Rose Bowl. My wife and I were with another married couple from the team and they sat us somewhat away from the rest of the team. Just before they brought out dessert, the guy in the booth ahead of us started to squirm. He was giving the universal âI'm chokingâ sign. One of the chefs came over and wrapped the guy up to give him the Heimlich, but he wasn't getting it done. The chef got out of the way and I jumped in and gave him a little tester shock because he was like 65 years old and I didn't want to crush him. I gave him a full heave, and it all came out. He shook my hand and the son patted me on the back, and I just sat down to finish dinner. Later on, he came up to me and pulled out this mangled pair of sunglasses and said, âThanks for everything, but you broke my sunglasses.â Before we left, I hugged the whole family and took a picture with them.
It wasn't my ideal reason for getting on SportsCenter, but it tops my last appearance.
...SportsCenter moment 2 (making the "Not Top 10"): It was the Civil War, last game of the season, with a trip to the Rose Bowl on the line.There was a fumble and instead of jumping to my feet to go after it, I just crawled for it, but it took a massive onside kick-like bounce. I remember the crowd just going nuts.
Hopefully my next appearance on ESPN is for something better than that. At the Rose Bowl, a Wisconsin reporter told me I'm known there as âHeimlich Guy.â I said I guess that's better than âSuspension Guyâ or âSpeeding Ticket Guy.â
...his two-year Mormon mission: I made that decision long before D-I football was an option.I lived in and around Barcelona for about 18 months, plus the island of Mallorca for about six months. It was really tough (jokes). It was a life-changing experience for me to figure who I wanted to be and who I didn't want to be. Plus, I learned a little more about the world outside of Idaho. I dropped to about 290 pounds. I tried working out on our pathetic little weight set and did curls and triceps extensions with a five-pound weight until I couldn't do them anymore. All my muscles just transformed into lean walking muscles because I walked everywhere.
...life as a family man/collegiate student-athlete: I met my wife in Eugene the first year I was there. The first Sunday I was there, I saw her as a chorister leading the music. I saw her before she saw me because she's this tall, blonde, good-looking girl. We crossed paths in the hallway and realized we were both from Idaho. She had a boyfriend, but that didn't last long.We got married then a little more than a year later we had a baby girl, then had another girl. I can already tell they are going to be trouble.
I feel like they helped my situation. They gave me added motivation and focus and structure. So many guys don't know what they are doing on weekends or in the summer. I always did. Football and school became like a job for me.
...adjusting to Chip Kelly: There was a âBand of Brothersâ-type attitude the first spring Coach Kelly came in. From warm-ups to lifting weights to breakfast to meetings, everything was throttled up. We went on to go Rose Bowl, National Championship appearance, Rose Bowl, so it obviously worked. It set the groundwork for the attitude and mentality that's there now.
As a lineman, it was tough to always be running to the ball, but it was awesome in the third and fourth quarters when the defense was falling all over itself and you just had to touch them to make them fall over.
There were some really, really fun games because of that feeling that we were unstoppable. We knew what we were doing because we'd replicate it in practice. That's why I give so much credit to the teams who could keep up and have great athletes like Auburn, LSU, Ohio State and Boise State. Most teams, though, you could feel a certain point in the game that they would have no burst left.
...Oregon's most impressive athlete: I'll always admit that when LaMichael wanted to take a game over, it was awesome to watch. He was fun to block for because you'd run downfield and see who you were supposed to block, and you knew that he would set you up perfectly.
Oregon will still be in good shape with Kenjon (Barner), who is a good friend of mine. In the preseason, we did this fireman walk where you had to carry someone 30 yards and back, 60 yards and back, 90 yards and back. I'd pick him up and carry him like no big deal, but he carried me the whole way too. I was like, âNo wonder. It all makes sense now why no one can tackle you.â
With De'Anthony, his raw athleticism is impressive. At the Rose Bowl, our offensive line coach said the design of this play is to get the little guy to the edge and let him outrun everybody. That's exactly what happened. In the game, I'm running to get to the outside linebacker. He starts to take another angle and I shut it down because I'm not going to catch him. Two steps later, he did the same thing, as DeAnthony just accelerated away from everyone.
...his favorite Oregon uniform combination:I'm just glad people still call them uniforms and not outfits. I think Coach Kelly makes the final decision on what we'll wear. The fans and the TV audience got such a kick out of it, that they had to hide what we were wearing until the day of the game so players wouldn't put it out on the Internet.
It was fun, but at the end of the day, I could wear pink and still go out there and do my job. Plus, as an offensive lineman, we liked the all-blacks. They made us look a little slimmer.
...befriending Phil Knight: We were playing at Arizona, and the game went into double overtime. The fans went onto the field and then had to go back into the stands, so they were ticked. When the game was over, we were getting bombed with bottles and stuff. We were walking off the field and some guy tells me to help get Mr. Knight into the locker room. I was just covering him as we walked into the locker room. Ever since, he always made a point to come over and shake my hand. I'm like, âMr. Knight knows my name. That's so cool!â
...training at IMG Academy: The types of muscles that are sore are an indication that it's working. The coaches who are working with us are great and have great insight for us about what to expect at the next level. I'm a little spoiled coming from Oregon because we had everything, but this place is as good and in several cases better than what we had there. Plus, I love the focus of everyone. You are preparing to potentially make a career, so it's been energizing during the times you're sore and tired.