Offensive tackle Joe Dahl, the only Cougar to garner an NFL combine invite, has been training in Irvine, Calif., and getting ready for the mental components that come with the weeklong event in Indianapolis.
The NFL combine conjures up images of freakishly athletic football players jumping, dashing and bench-pressing their way to a phone call on draft day.
The combine workout is what every draft hopeful spends months training for. But it’s just a small component of the battery of tests and interviews every combine participant will be put through this week as NFL teams converge in Indianapolis to partake in the league’s annual job fair for would-be-rookies.
“The main thing I’ve heard is that it’s a mental grind for the week,” said former Washington State offensive tackle Joe Dahl, the only Cougar who garnered an invitation to the combine. “They get you out early every day and want to see if you can perform under pressure, especially the mental aspect of it.
Joe Dahl file
Height, Weight: 6-4, 305
Notable: Transferred from Montana to WSU in Jan. 2012. ... Started 34 games for WSU, playing left guard in 2013 and left tackle in 2014. ... Gave up only one sack in 2014. ... Started in two bowl games for the Cougars, the New Mexico Bowl in 2013 and the Sun Bowl last season. ... Drew rave reviews during his participation in the Senior Bowl last month.
“A lot of people watch the combine, but they don’t realize that each group gets there four days before those workouts.”
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Training in Irvine, Calif., Dahl has spent as much time in the last month prepping for the mental components of the NFL combine experience as he has readying himself from the gauntlet of drills that are familiar to the average viewer.
At this point, Dahl says, he likes to think that the 40-yard dash, the bench press, vertical jump, broad jump and assortment of cone drills are the least of his worries “because we’ve repped them so much.” The 6-foot-4, 305-pound lineman plans to participate in all the combine drills.
“The whole challenge lies in the job interviews with the teams,” Dahl says.
Dahl’s agency, Rep 1 Sports, enlisted former NFL linemen Pat Harlow and Jackie Slater to help its contingent of three combine-bound offensive linemen prepare for the entirety of the combine experience
“We’ve done a lot of interview prep,” Dahl said. “They’ve been bringing in coaches and former players and taking (us) through some scenarios you’ll face at the combine.”
Dahl has practiced drawing out plays he used in college on the white board and explaining them to an audience. Rep 1 Sports also brought in Pat Morris, a longtime NFL offensive-line coach, to help run through some of the questions teams might ask in one-on-one interviews. Each team is allowed 60 interviews with prospects at the combine.
Dahl says his Senior Bowl experience was invaluable in helping him get ready for the combine. He interviewed with NFL teams while in Mobile, Ala., too. But the difference now is that he’ll be talking to head coaches instead of team scouts.
The Senior Bowl also gave him the opportunity to get used to working from a three-point stance instead of the two-point stance that WSU generally employs.
“I think the Senior Bowl helped a lot with that,” Dahl says. “Right away, it makes you feel more comfortable in the run game and get more push off the ball. It changes some things in your technique. Our pass technique at Washington State was different than what they want you to use at this level.”
It took Dahl a couple of days early on during Senior Bowl week to get used to starting off the ground, but by the end of the week, Dahl says he had adjusted completely, and he hopes to show NFL teams at the combine how far he’s come.
Most teams see Dahl as an offensive guard – the position he last played during his redshirt sophomore year before he moved permanently to tackle – but Dahl says he prides himself on his versatility, and he’s had teams ask to see him play at every offensive line position, including center.
“I’ve worked on some snapping here and there, but I’ve never taken live reps at center,” Dahl said. “I think I possess the ability to play anywhere.”
ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. sees Dahl as a possible third- or fourth-round selection.
“I’ve always liked him,” Kiper said. “He’s got great feet, he got tremendous experience in that offense, he doesn’t make mistakes and he’s rarely flagged for penalties.”