NFL Draft Diary: Elijah Shumate describes hardest part of combine

Elijah Shumate
Special to ND Insider

Probably the hardest part of the NFL Combine wasn’t anything I went through but watching my teammate, Jaylon Smith, and what he had to go through, talking about his injury and not being able to do any of the drills and testing.

That’s my boy. He’s one of my best friends on the team. He’s also one of the best athletes I’ve ever been around. We always talk about getting to the NFL and accomplishing our dreams. And despite his (knee) injury — in the last game of his college career — of course, he’s going to accomplish his.

Jaylon is so strong-minded. He’s taking it the best way he can, and that’s day by day. He’s going to come back stronger than ever, trust me.

There are people who talk about the weird stuff at the combine, weird questions you get asked and other stuff, but not one part of the combine was weird to me. Maybe it’s because this has been a dream of mine since I was 4 years old.

I was more excited than I was nervous going in. And I was pretty happy with how I did in most things afterward, especially the bench press. The most I had ever done prior to the combine was 17 reps (at 225). There, I did 18 (tied for third-best among the 18 safeties participating), so I improved.

The 40, I did OK, but I want to do better (his 4.58 time was sixth-fastest among 16 safeties participating). I think I’m going to rerun it at Notre Dame’s Pro Day on March 31. It was a pretty solid time, but I want to get that down. If I can get anywhere in that 4.4 range, I’m cool with that.

I definitely will do the position drills at Pro Day and maybe the vertical jump (33.0 inches at the combine) and broad jump (119.0), too.

We don’t go into our combine training blind at all. A cool thing about Notre Dame is every spring we do these types of things — run the 40, bench press, vertical leap — so you kind of have an idea of where you’re at and where you need to improve.

My weight at the combine was 216, which is a good place for me to be. At the Shrine Game, I was too light, at 210. I had lost too much weight working out.

I probably talked to 15 teams at the combine and some teams at the Shrine Game, too. They say, “Hi, how are you? How’s your family life?” And then they get right into football pretty quick.

They test your knowledge of the game over and over. They want to see if you can draw up a play, figure out an offense, scheme up a defense.

The advice I kept hearing was be a student of the game, always. And be ready to play special teams, because that’s where all the guys are going to make their money at. That’s good to hear, because in my four years at Notre Dame, I played on almost every special team, and I liked doing it.

It’s been great training down here in Florida at IMG, but I’m going to go back to South Bend on March 14 for several reasons. No. 1, I’ve got to pick up my cap and gown for graduation.

No. 2, since the Pro Day will be coming up at the end of March, I want to get used to working out at Loftus again, get used to that field.

Then after Pro Day, I take my last class of my college career. It starts April 3.

One of the things I’m looking forward to the most back in South Bend is seeing my boy, KeiVarae Russell perform at Pro Day (Russell’s recovery from a broken tibia limited him to the bench press only at the combine.)

Like Jaylon, he’s one of my good friends. People didn’t realize he was playing with an injury the whole season (a stress fracture suffered in August), but he kept it to himself.

It was up and down for him and people didn’t know why. But behind the scenes, I knew how bad it was. He’ll be healthy for Pro Day, and I think he’ll turn a lot of heads.

One of the cool things about this whole pre-draft process is how many of us from Notre Dame are going through it together. There were 10 of us at the combine, and even though we all had our own schedules, I got to hang out with pretty much everybody.

It makes it more special that we’re all trying to make our dreams come true — together.

- As told to Eric Hansen.

Notre Dame safety Elijah Shumate runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Monday, Feb. 29, 2016. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Former Notre Dame safety Elijah Shumate is doing an NFL Draft diary for the South Bend Tribune and NDInsider.com at key points leading up to the actual draft, April 28-30 in Chicago. This week, in the second installment, Shumate checks in while training in Bradenton, Fla., following the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.