- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer
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INDIANAPOLIS -- There are four of them here, one of the smallest, loneliest position groups at the NFL combine. They are small in numbers, and even if they make a team, even if they play in the NFL, there is still a piece of solitude.
Unlike all of their positional counterparts, kickers will not get what is typically deemed the full NFL combine experience. They will, in most cases, not run the 40-yard dash. They will not, in most cases, bench press or go through every other drill.
They will show up, take tests, do interviews, kick and leave. So it is a little bit different than most.
“All the kickers out here, we have done college camps when we were in high school and it’s exactly like this,” Tulane’s Cairo Santos said. “You go out there, warm up and kick. You do a few kickoffs and they are going to chart you.
“Kick a couple field goals and they are going to chart you, and that’s how they rank you and see how good you are. So we’re all very familiar with this kind of format, and you just have to perform.”
Not that some of the kickers didn’t think about doing some of the other, more traditional, testing.
Arkansas’ Zachary Hocker contemplated running the 40-yard dash in Indianapolis. A former soccer player and long-distance runner, he wasn’t concerned about his time and said he felt he could have put up a 4.6-second 40-yard dash had he actually participated in it.
“I honestly thought about benching and running the 40 because it’s the NFL combine, it’s kind of a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Hocker said. “I don’t think I would do bad at them.
“It was just, I was looking at stats and guys who had been at the combine before and just statistically, the guys who got drafted were guys who focused strictly on kicking ended up being more successful at it. I’m not saying I won’t run a 40 or do bench press or something at our Pro Day in March. But just up here, solely focus on impressing scouts with kicks.”
For that reason, the four kickers showing up don’t expect to miss much. They understand the pressures of the situation and realize their performance Friday could determine whether or not they end up as a late-round draft pick, in a camp, or no longer playing football at all.
But this pressure won’t get to them like it might to other players. There isn’t as much for them to do, and they have experienced all of this already. Unlike other positions here, everything the kickers do is essentially the same thing they’ve done every day in practice for years.
“It’s cool. I know the whole process, the interviews and the coaches and the meetings and the hospital visits, that’s all the same,” Hocker said. “Being able to relax when it’s on to perform and not worry about the 40 or bench.
“At the next level, it’s all about making kicks and winning games, and if you can prove that here, then you should be in pretty good shape.”
The one thing that is similar: The mental portion of the combine with a continual loop of interviews and attention focused on the players through myriad physicals and meetings. And for the kickers, that is likely the toughest part.
“All the things that they put you through,” Santos said. “There’s medical stuff, and I know part of it is psychological testing, so they want to see how well you deal with all these things.
“But (you) just got to come here for one reason.”
For all prospects, it is to try and impress coaches. For the kickers, it is more focused. All they have to do is kick.
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