The NFL Scouting Combine is the biggest stage for NFL Draft prospects to show off their talents on an even plane as all 32 teams analyze every step of every drill. So, you can imagine the disappointment for Dezmen Southward when he was told just before his workout that he would not be able to compete.
Southward, the Wisconsin safety who the Falcons selected in the third-round of the 2014 NFL Draft, received a text message saying that an x-ray showed he had a fractured vertebrae and that he would not be cleared to put up numbers in Indianapolis. Southward was stunned.
Day two of minicamp for the 2014 rookies took place in Flowery Branch on Saturday. The guys gave their best effort while learning as much as possible.
"If one team flags you, you have to come all the way back," Southward said during rookie minicamp last week. "Basically what happened was, one team flagged me and said they wanted to see my neck again, basically check out my neck, and that flagged me for the Combine, which I wasn't able to do."
Southward left Indianapolis to do his research on the injury. He flew out to Los Angeles to see a specialist to find out just what NFL doctors were seeing on his x-rays. Southward was cleared pretty quickly after a SPECT scan showed no issues, but he still had blank numbers on his Combine profile.
It made his Pro Day at Wisconsin that much more important, and he put the lights out on it. He clocked 4.35 as his best 40-yard dash attempt — only five safeties at the Combine put up times below 4.5 — and notchced a 42-inch vertical and a broad jump of 10 feet, 4 inches.
Those numbers, had they been put up in Indianapolis, would have been among the best at the position. His 40 time would have not only been good enough to top the 2014 safety class, it would have been the best at the position since 2008. His vertical would have been four inches higher than the top performers at safety. His broad jump would have been good enough for the No. 3 spot in that drill among safeties.
The missed opportunity didn't weigh much on Southward, but he said it did make him more focused for his Pro Day. All-in-all, it worked out in the end.
"You know your numbers. You're going to go out and do your numbers. Being mad or upset is not going to make you any faster. It's not going to make you jump higher," he said. "The same numbers I got at my Pro Day, I would have gotten at the Combine. I was just excited to go out and have a chance to put them on the board."