- Jane McManus, Reporter & Columnist, espnW.com
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Football’s appeal may lie partly in its violence, the velocity of collisions and aerodynamic spectacles in the end zone.
Which is why the NFL combine leading up to the April draft is a little deceptive. Yes, there are 40-yard dashes and 15-minute meetings with team officials. But, at its heart, the appeal of the combine is a modern version of a pretty familiar story.
Take Cordarrelle Patterson. After two seasons at a junior college, the wide receiver played a single season for Tennessee. This is a happy ending in and of itself, but it’s really just the beginning. Patterson did so well in his one SEC season that he is mentioned by some experts as -- possibly -- the best wide receiver in the draft.
"It feels good, but then again I can’t listen to that," Patterson said. "I don’t want to get the big head and then go in this weekend and don’t do nothing good and then everything just fails."
If he is picked in the first round, Patterson will sign and be financially compensated in a way that was hard to imagine when he was in junior college. Asked what that moment will be like, Patterson laughed.
"It’s pretty hard," he said. "I try to take it a day at a time, and when that day comes I know I’ll be ready for it."
In the meantime, Patterson has been up at 4 a.m. for a drug test, and joked that he’s been evaluated by what seems like at least 12 doctors. Then comes the speed dating question with team officials: Can he improve his route running? Was he just a one-year wonder? Is he worth a first-round pick?
"I say I’m a top-15 pick, but I can’t control what coaches think," Patterson said.
Patterson is one of a few dozen college players at the combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Here, he and the others will spend the weekend being evaluated more closely than a ripe cantaloupe in the produce section. It may be intrusive, but for a guy who wasn’t even playing Division I football until last fall, it’s part of the process that could lead to a happy ending worthy of any fairytale.
"I didn’t expect it," Patterson said, "but now that it’s here I’m glad it’s here."