tucson.com article for the Arizona Daily Star

NFL combine: Diary from former UA star, brother

 

February 18, 2009 12:00 am

INDIANAPOLIS — After the long training hours, which came on the heels of a bowl-winning season for the Arizona Wildcats, was the task of preparing for the NFL draft.

The long awaited flight to Indianapolis and the NFL combine is a very therapeutic escape. Some of the largest men on earth are packed tight like sardines on an aircraft where being uncomfortable is an understatement.

On board were top-tier linemen, including my brother, Eben Britton, Baylor's Jason Smith, Cal's Alex Mack, Penn State center A.Q. Shipley and Missouri tight end Chase Coffman.

They were relaxing for a short moment in the clouds. This is it. They are about to attend a three-day, under-the-microscope, meticulous job interview.

Eben, my older brother, has been working nonstop. At Athlete's Performance in Phoenix, he has lived like a monk and an athlete. He wakes up at 6:30 a.m. and finishes the day at around 5 p.m.

In between is weight training, plyometric and explosion drills, sprint work, lineman skills, interview run-throughs, preliminary wonderlic tests and a very specific nutritional routine.

He was told he must sleep at least 10 hours a day. Eat, train, sleep. And breathe.

Eben is ready. At 16 percent body fat, 308 pounds, he has some serious goals. And he WILL accomplish them.

That is what he does.

First to arrive. Last to leave.

Upon arriving in Indianapolis Eben said with a surge of excitement, "I feel like we flew in for a game, I feel as if I am mentally getting ready, and physically, the butterflies are starting to come. I love this, it's what I do."

Most of the top college football players are here.

Eben takes nothing lightly. On the line is millions of dollars that these teams will give the best player they feel fits their needs.

Eben has talked about getting every edge on the competition. "I want the scouts and GMs to have no choice but to choose me as their offensive line pick, and that they know there won't be a player to work harder for their organization than I will."

He has a fierce look in his eye. Most other players around are in sweatsuits and sneakers.

"I'm an athlete, watch me work," is the attitude.

Eben has taken another route. In a collared shirt, clean blue jeans and dress shoes, his face is cleanly shaven, his hair freshly cut. Eben knows that at any moment, he could run into the general manager who could change the course of his life.

The nerves are very high. Everything counts. Manners, remembering names, not just how many reps at 225 pounds. The combine is not only football, it is the interview of life.

They say the average Harvard graduate earns a salary around $250,000. That is a small percentage of what some of these athletes are looking at making for their first job.

You could be projected as first pick here, or 101st, what matters is what you bring right here, right now. There is no hype, no mock drafts, nobody cares about those.

"I look at this like every track meet, every game I've competed in. Except the stakes are so much higher. I'm humbled by the opportunity to be here with all of these guys and to have the chance to compete against them," Eben said as he looked around at some of the top names in football while they claim their luggage at the airport.

"As the famous coach John Wooden once said, we all put our socks on the same way in the morning. But how have you prepared? Are you ready? I belong here, this is what I've worked so hard for."

As we stepped off the plane, it's all business. Eben looks like a man on a mission.

Looking around, it's not hard to recognize faces of stars of the college ranks.

The whispers grow a little bit louder about who's who. The nods happen. Competition begins. They are on the field already, even at the airport.

Eben is one of those guys who makes real friends. But this is business. Buddies off the field, but when the helmet goes on, game on.

The players were picked up and taken to their hotel across the street from Lucas Oil Stadium, where the combine takes place and the Colts play. They spend the night with not much to do except perhaps sign autographs, contemplate the next day and what is ahead in the journey to the NFL.

EDITOR'S NOTE

As the NFL combine gets underway in Indianapolis this week, we'll follow the "job fair" with Gus Britton, an actor, writer, filmmaker and brother of former UA offensive tackle Eben Britton. Eben, a 21-year-old native of Burbank, Calif., is attending the combine. His brother is working on a documentary about the transition from college football to the NFL. Gus will document the combine for the Star all week.

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