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Hobbs Column: Seeing a 345-pound lineman in his underwear not for the faint-hearted

Last Modified: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 6:16 PM

By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

Maybe there are sillier spectacles in all of sport, but for pure, heartfelt giggles, it’s hard to beat the NFL combine.

It’s a tough game, a macho exercise, men-amongst-men at its best and certainly no place for the faint-hearted.

That’s in the fall.

But as a prelude, to make it all work and restock the stables with new livestock each year, you get the NFL combine this week in Indianapolis.

Evidently, they can’t have the draft without it. More likely, the NFL is afraid that a week might go without their football in the headlines.

But there is humor.

The combine consists mainly of bespectacled middle-aged men with notebooks and seriously furrowed brows poking and prodding at the pecs and biceps of muscular young men standing there nervously in their underwear with numbers on their backs.

There’s high humor in watching a 345-pounder try to hold his gut in for several minutes.

But apparently it really, really matters whether you’re actually 6-foot-2 or just another 6-1 15/16 wannabe.

There’s a magic formula out there somewhere — the perfect distance between nape of the neck and the top of the noggin — and they’re not going to quit measuring until they figure it out one day.

Even when they shift the festivities to the field, basically they turn blood-and-gut, rub-a-little-dirt-on-it football players into the worst of prima donna track stars.

These guys should be scratching their hooves on the turf, snorting out steam like bulls before they explode out of their haunches.

Instead they circle and tip-toe around like nervous kittens before finally squatting apprehensively, as if worried that they forgot something, like their little running slippers might be missing a spike or their shoelaces are uneven.

Yet the 40-yard dash times will be the big headlines.

Warning: The NFL website currently lists the dozen best 40-yard dash times in combine history ... and I’d only heard of one of the players attached to them.

Yet that, and how they run through some orange cones — which are notoriously sloppy tacklers — can decide which team takes a flyer on which running back.

The big news this year — an oddity, as I understand it — is the buzz that all of the aspiring quarterbacks have agreed to actually throw the football for their auditions.

Uh, what else would a quarterback go to the combine for? Show off his punting skills?

Hopefully they can find some prospective receivers who will agree to “catch” the ball.

Still to come, of course, in a matter of just weeks somehow some of the grades from the Wonderlic’s tests will accidentally on purpose be released. And we’ll be quickly reminded that, if a guy can motor, nobody really cares if he has the same relative IQ as a geranium.

This year they’ve even added another mental exercise to the scholarly side of things, which theoretically should double the hijinks down the road.

For that matter, if there are any more startling revelations to come in the Manti Te’o soap opera, this week would be a good place for them, especially when the team-appointed psychologists get a shot at him.

“So, Mr. Te’o, tell us once again about this girlfriend of yours, dead I believe. Does it still haunt you? Did you dream of girlfriends as a young child or ...”

If you’re wondering, LSU will contribute 13 players to the show, which is tied with Florida State for the most from any school.

The SEC’s 73 of the 333, also includes 11 from Georgia and 10 each from Alabama and Florida.

I guess the Tide were overachievers this year.

Actually, we may need a ruling on LSU’s total. It actually includes only a dozen from last year’s team, plus a wayward

Honey Badger who really wasn’t much of a factor on last year’s team.

Most of them, of course, are neglecting their current studies to go on these job interviews.

Actually, most of them have long bolted school to go work with so-called personal football tutors, mostly in Florida.

It’s the “in” thing to do these days.

Which is another thing I never quite understood.

These guys were all high school stars, four- or five-star recruits by most services, and they are invited to the combine because they have wooed everybody with their speed and agility for three or four years of college.

So then they go off to a guru so they can learn how to run real fast.

Are college coaches that bad?

• • •

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com

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