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The Basics of Combine Prep (Part 4) by Neil Stratton from Inside the League


Let’s wind down combine prep with a look at options for players who may not find agents who’ll pay for training.

Training at school: If you or your son played at a BCS school, or at nearly any Division I-A school in the era of big-money athletics, you probably have access to (a) sufficient facilities and (b) sufficient coaches to train for your pro day. As recently as seven or eight years ago, virtually all training was conducted this way. Of course, back then, pro days and the combine weren’t nearly as critical as they are now, but it still gives you some idea of the players that made it to the next level without concierge-level pre-draft training. I even once had a trainer who got out of the business because he was convinced that combine training did nothing that an athlete couldn’t do on his own given proper rest, nutrition, disciplined training and simply letting his body heal. I don’t necessarily subscribe to that belief, but the bottom line is that if you wind up training at school, you aren’t locked out of the NFL. Just look at all the players (four in the fourth round, five in the fifth round last spring) who trained at school last year. All of them will be in the NFL this year without having the benefit of a tony, expensive combine prep facility. It can be done.

Paying for training: If you or your son is insistent on training somewhere other than at school, and the agents you talk to aren’t offering it, it’s time to have a frank discussion with them – and yourself. We’ll talk more about selecting an agent later, but for now, it’s important to really have a sense of where you fit into the draft. It may be time to find a facility that’s within driving distance of your home or school, and that offers competent training but perhaps without the bells and whistles. There are dozens of no-frills gyms out there that can offer affordable training, and we regularly recommend them to parents, players and agents when there’s a need. Bottom line, if combine training is something that’s critical to you, you may have to work out a split with an agent, maybe offering to go 50-50 or some other ratio. Many agents, especially those with limited client lists, may be willing to make this arrangement, and it’s becoming more and more common. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard of players or their parents making ill-conceived ultimatums and pricing themselves out of representation.

A case study: Here’s what not to do. Last year, I was attending the Texas vs. The Nation Classic in Allen, Texas, and I told one of my agent clients (newly certified) which players were not yet signed. He eagerly approached one such player, a true longshot, about signing him, and was referred to his father, who immediately told my client that he “had a background in sports marketing.” What that meant is that the father wanted to play big shot. Well, he talked his son right out of representation, and of course, he’s not in a camp right now. Meanwhile, the agent was so discouraged that he called me about a week later and told me he was getting out of the business. Sad but true.

Inside The League ( is the consulting service for the football industry. We work with the contract advisors for about two-thirds of active NFL players as well as the combine trainers, financial planners, scouts, coaches and other pro league organizers that make up the game. Cost is $25/month, and you can cancel at any time. To register, click here.

NFL Draft Diamonds was created to assist the underdogs playing the sport. We call them diamonds in the rough. My name is Damond Talbot, I have worked extremely hard to help hundreds of small school players over the past several years, and will continue my mission. We have several contributors on this site, and if they contribute their name and contact will be in the piece above. You can email me at

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