Former Notre Dame CB Julian Love ready to race the clock at NFL Combine

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

INDIANAPOLIS — Julian Love is too much of a competitor to say no.

When asked if he will beat former Notre Dame teammate Miles Boykin’s 40-yard dash time of 4.42 seconds at the NFL Combine, the cornerback said yes. But only after laughing first.

“You have to strive to beat his 40 time,” Love said. “That’s a guy I grew up with competing against. That’s the plan. I’m going to try to run as fast, play my game, try to run as fast as I can. We’ll see what happens.”

Love knows Boykin set a tough mark to beat. He spent part of his Q&A session with reporters Sunday talking up the fellow Chicago-area product. But the importance of running fast in Monday’s workout has nothing to do with Boykin and everything to do with answering one of the few question marks about Love’s game.

Cornerbacks can’t hide from the 40-yard dash. No matter how productive the 5-foot-11, 195-pound Love was at Notre Dame, he needs a good mark to keep his draft stock high.

Love spent the weeks before the combine training with Bommarito Performance Systems in Aventura, Fla. A lot of work went into what will end up being two sprints totaling roughly nine seconds, but he’s not worried about the pressure.

“It’s something that I’m excited to show,” Love said. “I run what I run. I don’t feel like I need to run anything. If I don’t — whatever happens — I’m excited to show everyone what I have because that’s a big question. (Monday) should be fun.”

In three years at Notre Dame, Love set the school record for pass breakups in a season (20) and in a career (39). This past season, he was named one of three Thorpe Award finalists for the top defensive back in college football and a consensus All-American.

Yet the first question asked of him by a reporter Sunday afternoon was if he is being overlooked.

“I wouldn’t say I’m overlooked,” Love said. “Every phase of football, I have something to prove. Right now is the ultimate phase, the ultimate level of football, and I, of course, have something to prove, which I’m excited for. That’s what motivates me. That’s what I do this for. I’m excited to be here just to show what I have.”

Love could still be at Notre Dame and starting another round of spring football. But Love chose to give up his final year of eligibility to pursue an NFL career. It was a tough decision, Love said, but he knew it was the right one after talking to his family and teammates and setting up a plan to graduate in the future.

“My talk with my teammates was very encouraging because that’s what I miss the most,” Love said. “Then it became a business decision from that.”

The pitch to NFL teams is clear. Love can rattle off the number of games (38) and starts (34) in just three seasons at Notre Dame. He noted that he can play on the outside and at nickelback, has a high football IQ and tackles well.

“Every corner now coming out should be versatile, should be able to play not just one position,” Love said. “On a lot of teams, they’re rotating guys or scheming to have three solid outside and inside corners on the field at one time.”

Love didn’t flinch when asked to describe the intricacies of the position. He said cornerback is the second-hardest position in football behind only quarterback. Here’s why.

“In pure form, you’re doing everything a guy is doing but backwards,” Love said. “He knows where he’s going. You don’t. And you still make plays on the ball. That takes a lot of practice, a lot of skill.”

Those are skills he’s been honing since childhood. That’s when he first started rewatching his games because his mother always filmed them. It wasn’t quite film study then, but that’s what it has become.

“Still to this day, after every game, as soon as the film’s up, I need to watch it just to see what happened,” Love said.

Love won’t have to wait long to see the film of his 40-yard dash on Monday. Clips will certainly hit Twitter soon after he finishes his two attempts.

Love will only be racing the clock, but it will be hard to not compare it to Boykin. The two have been battling each other for years, and they’re not done yet.

“He humbled me at times, for sure,” Love said. “At Notre Dame, in that building, people know,” Love said. “We battled. At times he got the best of me. Sometimes I got the best of him. That constant drive and constant competition really benefited us.”

Testing results

Te’von Coney wasn’t quite ready to show everything at the NFL Combine. Instead, the former Irish linebacker has opted to save his testing performances for Notre Dame’s Pro Day on March 20.

While the 6-foot-1, 234-pound Coney waited to only do linebacker position drills on Sunday, former teammates Drue Tranquill (6-2, 234) and Jerry Tillery (6-6, 295) both put their skills on display. Here’s how both compared to the other prospects at their positions.

Tranquill

• Bench: 31 reps (1st of 28 linebackers)

• 60-yard shuttle: 11.64 seconds (3rd of 4)

• Vertical jump: 37.5 inches (T-5th of 24)

• 20-yard shuttle: 4.14 seconds (T-5th of 17)

• Three-cone drill: 6.94 seconds (6th of 15)

• 40-yard dash: 4.57 seconds (T-7th of 22)

• Broad jump: 122 inches (T-9th of 25)

Tillery

• 20-yard shuttle: 4.33 seconds (5th of 24 interior defensive linemen)

• Three-cone drill: 7.45 seconds (7th of 22)

• 40-yard dash: 4.93 seconds (9th of 30)

• Vertical jump: 32 inches (T-9th of 29)

• Broad jump: 115 inches (T-9th of 29)

• Bench: 23 reps (19th of 26)

Notre Dame’s Julian Love (27) brings down Syracuse’s Nykeim Johnson (82) during the Notre Dame-Syracuse NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, at Yankee Stadium in New York City.