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Friday, February 27, 2009

Tez Doolittle: "He Don't Need No Stinkin' Combine" (Says Jay Ratliff)

Tez Doolittle isn't among the 325 draft-eligible players invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, which starts this week in Indianapolis.
The nose tackle is among several players on the outside, hoping a good performance in Auburn's March 10-11 pro-day workouts -- where scouts will hover to see other players they'll probably see at the combine -- gets him drafted, or at least a tryout.
"I told Tez, just like someone told me, 'It's not where you start but where you end up,'" Dallas Cowboys nose tackle Jay Ratliff said.
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Ratliff ended up playing in his first Pro Bowl this month -- four years removed from being in the same position as Doolittle. Ratliff, also an Auburn product, wasn't invited to the combine, where likely draft picks are evaluated by officials from the NFL's 32 teams.
Ratliff showed well enough at the East-West Shrine Game to be noticed by a few NFL teams in attendance but not well enough to be added to the combine roster.
His performance at Auburn's Pro Day, which featured running backs Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams, cornerback Carlos Rogers and quarterback Jason Campbell, was good enough to pique the interest of at least one team. That's all it took.
The Cowboys drafted Ratliff in the seventh round. Now he's viewed as one of the top nose tackles in the league.
"To this day, I still don't know why I wasn't invited," Ratliff said about the combine. "I always wondered that. People may have been afraid because I went to Auburn as a tight end, then was moved to defensive end, then to nose tackle. I guess they weren't sure because I only spent a year at each position.
"The only thing I know is not getting invited made me that more determined and a lot hungrier. I don't regret anything that happened. It just gave me unbelievable drive. It made me want to go harder. Thinking about it now, I'm getting that feeling all over again. You get looked over, and nobody expects you to make it. When you do, you can tell everybody that you didn't have anything handed to you, but that you've earned it."
A committee of selectors chooses which players are invited to combine. None of the selectors has ties to any particular conference, university, program or player representation agency, although coaches and agents routinely lobby for players to be invited. Typically, the number of those players invited comes out to around 325.
Roughly one-third of the players who are invited to the combine aren't drafted. A couple dozen players who aren't invited are drafted each year. From 1999 to 2007, nearly 190 players who weren't invited to the combine were drafted. Dozens more non-invitees latched on to teams as free agents.
The main reasons players don't make the combine are injuries, having non-NFL-type measurables, a lack of production and playing against lesser competition.


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