Kirk Cousins began preparing for his "job interview" in Florida a couple of weeks ago.
Cousins, who quarterbacked Michigan State to back-to-back 11-win seasons for the first time in school history, is trying to impress NFL general managers and coaches at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. The game is at 4 p.m. Saturday.
Cousins has been working with 2000 Heisman Trophy winner and former NFL quarterback Chris Weinke.
"I wanted a quarterback coach who was current with the NFL, who would know and understand the game as of right now and not as of 15 years ago," Cousins said in a recent phone interview. "So the fact that Chris was a seven-year NFL veteran and played very recently ... I felt that was a positive. I wanted a guy who had not only coached, but had played."
Weinke, who played at Florida State, helped train Cam Newton and Christian Ponder during the NFL lockout. Both had productive rookie seasons.
"I assumed he was a smart guy," Weinke said of Cousins, "and what I've found over the last couple weeks is he's very passionate about the game. He's a very smart guy and can pick up a lot of things very quickly. He's tough on himself. He's probably his own biggest critic and, in some ways, a perfectionist. He's got a great work ethic and, quite frankly, he's got a stronger arm than I anticipated.
"Sometimes it's hard to evaluate on film. In person, he has a stronger arm and great accuracy."
Weinke also has been working with draft hopefuls Russell Wilson of Wisconsin and Ryan Tannehill of Texas A&M.
"I'm not here to overhaul anybody," Weinke said. "I'm here to simply make minor tweaks to maximize their ability. From a fundamental standpoint, (Cousins) is pretty solid.
"He needs to understand the rhythm and the timing, how much different it's going to be at the next level, how much smaller the windows are and, in essence, how important accuracy is. One of the physical things we're doing with him is really teaching him to drive the football with his legs. He's got a good, strong arm, but what he's finding now is trusting that he can throw the ball with less effort and more velocity when he uses his legs."
Cousins put in about 12 hours per day the past two weeks at the IMG Academy football program. After breakfast, he would practice for the Wonderlic test, an intelligence exam administered at the NFL combine, and attend a nutrition meeting. After warming up and stretching, he would spend 90 minutes on movement drills, the last 30 devoted to drills he'll perform at next month's combine. That was followed by 90 minutes of throwing with Weinke.
After lunch, he would complete a 90-minute workout, followed by a film session with Weinke. After dinner, Cousins said he usually called his parents.
"Not a whole lot of free time, but it's what you have to do to be ready to go," Cousins said.
"I look at it as a job interview, and it's four months long. It's an exciting process, in my case, because I have nothing to hide. I have everything to gain. I feel what these coaches, scouts and general managers do is they open people up, and they want to examine every single thing. Their focus is, really, 'Why shouldn't we draft you?' "
Cousins knows what it's like to have people question his ability. He feels that will only help him when it comes to talking to NFL personnel.
Reviews have been positive during Senior Bowl practices. Rob Rang of cbssports.com wrote about Cousins' "sparkling efforts" and said he "outshined Wisconsin's Russell Wilson and Boise State's Kellen Moore."
"I have no doubt in my own ability," Cousins said. "The process, for me, back to high school, has been trying to fight for everything I've received. There were a lot of people who didn't believe in me, a lot of people who didn't give me a chance, a lot of people who said I didn't belong at Michigan State and shouldn't have received a scholarship.
"I think I was able to prove those people wrong and have a great deal of success at Michigan State. This process is much the same way, where people are going to doubt you, tell you what you can't do."
Cousins said he's an open book.
"I think when you've played three years and played 40 straight games at Michigan State and won a Big Ten championship and played in a second Big Ten championship game and won the Outback Bowl, there's not a whole lot people don't know about me," he said. "I'm not a mystery, as some other prospects may be.
"At the same time, there is a lot that has been misperceived about me and that people don't quite understand about me. That's why you want to be at the Senior Bowl and show people what you're all about."
Contact George Sipple: 313-223-4796 or firstname.lastname@example.org.