C.J. Henderson gets a taste of the NFL

The NFL Scouting Combine is one of the most heavily covered and publicized events of the NFL offseaosn. Every NFL team is represented. NFL Network has wall-to-wall coverage showing hours and hours of dills, jumps, runs and ben presses throughout the event. It’s hard to go unnoticed.

Unless you’re one of 25 elite NCAA athletes that were invited to Indianapolis during the combine to get a look at what the process is all about.

The NFL actually started the practice back in 2017. The inaugural class of players included Josh Rosen (UCLA) and Minkah Fitzpatrick (Alabama). Ed Oliver (Houston) and Rashan Gary (Michigan) were invited in 2018.

The group that Henderson attended with included Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama), Jake Fromm (Georgia) and Grant Delpit (LSU).

“It was cool. We learned about the process and the behind the scenes stuff in the NFL, you know we was talking about it at the combine,” Henderson said. “Meeting with coaches and stuff and not really just going out there and running the 40. It was a job interview, you know there were coaches that would learn what type of person you are and if you really know your football and stuff like that.”

There are a lot of good positive stories but a lot of cautionary tales when it comes to the NFL. ESPN’s 30-for-30 series highlighted how ill prepared many people are when they come into the kind of money that professional athletes earn. Every school has to handle that education process on its own and not all do. Florida has former defensive back Vernell Brown on staff as the director of student-athlete development. Brown’s entire job is to help young men grow up into well-rounded individuals, not just football players. Brown attended the even with Henderson and he thinks it can be beneficial not just for the elite cornerback, but for everyone on Florida’s roster.

“It’s real secretive. They don’t give them a bunch of free time,” Brown said in an interview with the school’s website. “You can’t get more real. The reality is that it’s a billion-dollar industry and a lot of athletes fall into the trap. To have that symposium, to bring different people in to educate you about the different aspects of the trap so you don’t fall into the trap, it’s priceless.”

The symposium is held at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis, just a hundred yards away from the NFL Combine. That means you have 25-30 elite NCAA student-athletes walking around the same streets as the NFL’s top agents who would love to, by chance, bump into some of them. That’s why the NCAA keeps this event so secretive.

In 2018 Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and Jachai Polite were invited and Tyrie Cleveland accompanied them.

“It was a good experience,” Cleveland told the Gator’s website. “I had a chance to get into detail about the next level of my life. It was really important. I was shocked at first because the financial part of the NFL, most people think, ‘oh, yeah, he’s going to be a millionaire.’ But taxes come along and then you got people coming from all around you, coming to ask for money. It basically told me how to know who I surround myself around and not to spend the money on everything when I get it.”

Nick de la Torre
A South Florida native, Nick developed a passion for all things sports at a very young age. His love for baseball was solidified when he saw Al Leiter’s no-hitter for the Marlins live in May of 1996. He was able to play baseball in college but quickly realized there isn’t much of a market for short, slow outfielders that hit around the Mendoza line. Wanting to continue with sports in some capacity he studied journalism at the University of Central Florida. Nick got his first start in the business as an intern for a website covering all things related to the NFL draft before spending two seasons covering the Florida football team at Bleacher Report. That job led him to GatorCountry. When he isn’t covering Gator sports, Nick enjoys hitting way too many shots on the golf course, attempting to keep up with his favorite t.v. shows and watching the Heat, Dolphins and Marlins. Follow him on twitter @NickdelatorreGC