Posted on March 26, 2013 at 1:00 a.m.
| Updated on March 26, 2013 at 6:52 p.m.
NOTRE DAME — Pro day and the NFL Combine — when the nation’s top draft prospects trade in helmets and pads for form-fitting track suits that would make Usain Bolt proud.
Two intriguing moments when fans and media alike set aside four years of game film and accomplishments and focus on how fast each player can run a 40-yard dash or the 20-yard shuttle.
For as much as people gobble up the stats, former Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert, who is projected to go in the first round by every major analyst, says NFL scouts don’t put as much emphasis on drill results as one might think.
“It seems that way and it gets hyped up that way, but at the end of the day it’s your film that really matters,” Eifert said following Notre Dame’s pro day on Tuesday, March 26. “People that have been doing this for a while remind us of that to take some of the pressure off. It’s not make or break if you don’t do well at the combine or pro day. You’ve already shown what you can do on tape and that’s what really matters.”
Eifert didn’t run the 40 at pro day after clocking a 4.68 at the NFL Combine, good for the top five among tight ends. Couple that with the rising trend of receiver-like tight ends, and Eifert was cemented into first-round status.
Eifert says he has players like Rob Gronkowski and Kyle Rudolph to thank for that.
“It’s a good time to be a tight end, the kind of tight end I am,” Eifert said. “I just feel lucky to come in when I am.”
While Eifert’s stock is rising, the same couldn’t be said for former teammate Manti Te’o, who, despite his record-tying seven interceptions in 2012, drew ire for his disappointing 4.82 40 at the combine.
Te’o officially clocked in a 4.69 on Tuesday, according to a release from Notre Dame, which is 0.13 seconds faster than he ran in February.
“This is the best day ever. It’s a big, big burden off your shoulders,” Te’o said of pro day. “It feels like it’s your birthday. I’m very glad that it’s over. This is when you have to kick it into overdrive. I’m very pleased and very happy that this process is done.”
During interviews with 20 NFL teams at the combine, Te’o said the Lennay Kekua scam came up frequently.
“Everybody wants to know,” Te’o said. “Some guys just wanted a brief of what happened. Overall, it was a great opportunity and a great experience. For me, it’s just focus on football. I’m a football player. I made mistakes, but nothing that affected my play on the football field.”
Twelve other former Notre Dame players joined Te’o and Eifert for pro day drills, including John Goodman, Mike Golic Jr., Theo Riddick, Roby Toma, Cierre Wood, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Zeke Motta, Jamoris Slaughter, Ben Turk, Jordan Cowart and Chris Salvi.
Former Irish quarterback Evan Sharpley threw passes to Eifert, Goodman, Toma, Wood and Riddick. Sharpley first threw a series of off-centered passes to each target then ran routes with all five receivers.
“Me and Sharp were on scout team freshman year, so we have a little connection from that,” Eifert said. “He throws a good ball.”
Te’o and Eifert plan on working out in South Bend until draft day, though neither plan on going to New York for the draft and will instead watch from home.
Like Eifert, Te’o is also projected to be chosen in the first round, but Te’o doesn’t have an inkling of where he’ll turn up.
“I don’t think any of us know where we’re going,” Te’o said. “I just hope we’re going somewhere.”