Penn State senior linebacker Josh Hull was surprised and thrilled to get an invite to last week's NFL Combine, then went ahead and took advantage of the opportunity, posting top times among linebackers in the 20 and 60-yard shuttle drills.
In fact, aside from a next to last finish among linebackers for his 40 time, Hull was pleased with his overall performance, including a fourth-place finish in the three-cone drill and first place finishes in both the 20 and 60-yard shuttle drills.
Listed below are Hull's numbers from the Combine:
40 - 4.91 (next last among LBs)
Bench - 25 (tied 11th among LBs)
Vertical - 32.5 (13th among LBs)
Three-cone - 6.86 (4th among LBs)
20-yard shuttle - 4.07 (1st among LBs)
60-yard shuttle - 11.31 (1st among LBs)
Broad jump - n/a
With the Combine in the books and Pro Day just a week away, BWI caught up with Hull on Friday to talk in-depth about his Combine experience.
BWI: How did the Combine go?
Hull: Everything went real well. I was really pleased with my performances. I'm a little upset with the 40. I've never been the type of kid to really come up with excuses to explain why I didn't perform the way I wanted. I guess it just wasn't my day for the 40.
But, there's no doubt in my mind I'm going to come to State College on Pro Day and run a lot better than I did down there. But, the position drills went real well, change of direction drills went good, I jumped well, interviewed well. Other than that, everything was in really good shape.
BWI: You came out on top in the 20 and 60-yard shuttles, plus a good showing in the three-cone drill. You had to be really pleased with that stuff, right?
Hull: Yeah, I was really excited about that. Those were the three things I was really focused on in Jersey and I knew I could hit those real well, I wasn't worried about them at all. The 40 was the only thing I was a little skeptical about and maybe just thinking about it too much, I really don't know what it was but like I said, it just wasn't my day.
BWI: The actual build up to the 40... what was the day like leading up to it and that specific drill is held in such high regard it probably lends itself to creating some nerves, right?
Hull: In my case I don't think it was a case that I was nervous. I've been practicing it for seven weeks, I knew exactly what I needed to do before I actually started to run getting down into my stance, I knew exactly what I needed to do. So, it wasn't a sense of me being nervous, it was just me... I don't know, I just didn't do what I've been doing in Jersey.
It was a long day leading up to that. I think we got up at around nine in the morning and then we waited around until 10:30. We went over to the stadium then, did interviews, took pictures, and I don't think we actually got on the field until a little after 12. Then once we got out on the field a little after 12, we did all of our jumps and stuff, we did our 40 after that, and then they actually split all the other stuff up with our position drills, so we had about an hour and a half of position drills before we did change of direction stuff, so that was a little different than all of the other groups had. We were on our feet for probably four and a half or five hours.
BWI: Do they prepare you for exactly what is going to happen like a timeline or agenda?
Hull: They gave you absolutely nothing. You knew what time you had to meet in the hotel lobby to go over to the stadium and then once you were there, you had no idea.
It falls into their plan. It's definitely what they wanted to do. They want to see how you operate in that and how you work in a low-sleep condition and obviously high-stress. A couple of nights I only got five or six hours of sleep. One of the mornings I woke up at 4:30 to take a drug test. I took the drug test, went back to sleep for an hour, got up and ate breakfast and then was at the hospital for seven hours. They're long days.
BWI: What was the hospital visit for?
Hull: The whole medical examination. Each professional team, all 32 teams, have their own doctor that you go into these rooms, someone would brief you and go through and ask you about all of your past injuries, and then they would present you with five or six doctors as a group, and if any of those five or six doctors had questions - you're on a table with people surrounding you and they'd come up and start pulling on your knees and testing your elbows and poking your stomach. If you're fine, you'd go to the next room and they'd do the same exact thing. There were six or seven in the same exact room.
BWI: Sounds crazy. Were you prepared for that?
Hull: I was prepared for that because I talked to some other kids and that was one of the things that they warned you about to just be relaxed.
It's one of those things where you hurry up and get to the room and then you wait for an hour to get checked out. You hurry up to the next room and then you wait an hour to get checked out.
The biggest thing that they got me with is I had my elbow scoped in ninth grade in high school but played since then without any problems. They found out that I had microscopic surgery, so I had to get an MRI done on it, and every doctor after that found out about it and wanted to check it to test the mobility, range of motion, everything.
BWI: That must feel a little meat-marketish, right?
Hull: Yeah, you felt like you were on the chopping block, an animal marching into the auction.
BWI: What did the whole stay in Indianapolis consist of? When did you get there and how did those days fall out?
Hull: I was supposed to arrive there Friday morning but we got the big storm here that canceled all of the flights out of State College on Friday, so I ended up leaving on Thursday afternoon, driving to Philadelphia, missed my first flight, got on my second flight at nine o'clock, sat on the runway for two hours before the plane took off, had to de-ice, and I didn't get to Indianapolis until one o'clock Friday morning.
So, I got there real late, slept a couple of hours and woke up Friday and then you go right into the schedule. They had interviews, met with the teams, the next day was the medical examinations, the day after that was the bench press, and then the day after the bench press was when we did all of the stuff at the stadium.
BWI: Of those days, is the bench press a day off so to speak?
Hull: You can call it a day off in the sense that you're only having one test and it's the only thing that truly matters numbers-wise, but I think we still got up at seven in the morning and had interviews with the NFL teams right up until when we were supposed to bench press. Then after you get back, you go right back to the hotel and go right back into the same meeting room and have meetings with some more teams.
BWI: Do you interview with all 32 teams separately? How does that work?
Hull: You got a name card, and then certain teams would request a formal interview and you would go into the hotel room and their GM would be there, the owner, the head coach, the assistant coach, linebackers coach, defensive coordinator, and a camera that they would videotape you with.
Some kids had as many as 26, I only had one. I met with the Carolina Panthers. After that's done, you go into a big meeting room and in this meeting room, there's a representative from every team that you can informally meet with. I'd say of the 32 teams, I probably met with about 30 of them.
BWI: Do they ask you to come by? Is it like a job fair?
Hull: They have to get you. You can't sell yourself, they have to approach you.
BWI: Of your general reaction, were there any teams that stood out with how they approached you?
Hull: All of the teams had a similar way of approaching you but there definitely were teams that showed more interest than any others. I don't necessarily get into that, but most of the teams that run a 3-4 defense showed a lot of interest in me.
So there were about six or seven teams that I would say really went out of their way and I met with them a little bit longer.
I got to meet with the actual linebacker coach and they drew offensive formations up and I drew the base defense that we ran up at Penn State up there. So they definitely went into depth a little more than the other teams.
BWI: What specifically about you lends itself to playing in the 3-4?
Hull: With the 3-4 defense, the inside linebacker plays over a guard or something and they're going to have to cover one-on-one with the offensive guard. There's no defensive lineman to shield you from that and I guess just based off of my film, a lot of professional teams feel like I would do well in the 3-4 defense based on my low pad level, good hand technique, hands inside and I get off of blocks well and I'm comfortable playing inside because that's what I did at Penn State. So, I think that's where most teams are trying to fit me into their scheme.
BWI: When they throw questions at you asking you to draw things up, how did that go and what was that experience like?
Hull: I was extremely comfortable doing that. I made all of the calls at Penn State. I called the huddle, I made all of the formation checks, so that was just second nature to me. That was just like being in the classroom and regurgitating stuff from coach Vanderlinden. For the past five years I was real comfortable doing that.
I kind of have a funny story though. Most of the pro teams would just draw up a pro-I formation, a basic offensive formation, and I would draw my base defense up to it. I met with the Giants and the guy drew up double-flanker, which is kind of an odd formation, no one else gave me the formation and I knew exactly what the guy was doing before he did it.
So, he went through and I had to explain everybody's responsibility and he asked me what my responsibility was, and I told him I carry the tight end on verticals. He asked me if I had any bad coverage games during the year and I said yeah, I had Michigan State.
He said, 'Yeah, I know, I saw the film. You have some explaining to do.'
So, I spent five or ten minutes trying to explain why I did what I did and how I got beat and why I got beat. But I knew as soon as he drew that formation up, I knew exactly where he was going.
BWI: That must have caught you by surprise?
Hull: It definitely caught me by surprise but I knew where he was going because of that formation he drew up. That was the most difficult interview that I had was with the Giants because I was trying to explain myself without giving excuses, because that's what they want to do. They're trying to see how many excuses you can give to explain your failure.
BWI: How did you feel like you came out of that?
Hull: I felt like I came out of it really well. I told them that I was in the position to make the plays both times, it was just a matter of me not getting my head back and me not having position on the ball. The tight end went right over top. I didn't give them any excuses, it wasn't a case where I felt like the guy was a superior athlete, it was just a matter of me not making the play and it's a play that normally, 12 other games of the season, I didn't have a tight end catching vertical on me all year, so to have one game...
BWI: How much did you feel Penn State's individual system and coach Vanderlinden in particular prepared you for questions like that?
Hull: I think I was prepared as well as I could be prepared by Penn State going into the situation. I felt extremely comfortable talking. I'm the type of person that carries myself pretty well in public and is real easy talking with people.
Coach Vanderlinden demands perfection out of us every single day in that meeting room at Penn State. I didn't quite understand while I was at Penn State, especially when I was younger, I didn't understand why he was like this.
As I grew up and matured a little bit, I started to understand that there's a purpose in everything that coach Vanderlinden makes us do. Just putting me in the space that I was at in Indianapolis, it made things even clearer why coach Vanderlinden is as meticulous as he is with everything with linebackers at Penn State.
BWI: By the time the interviews and medical examinations and the bench were all over, did the performance day feel like the finish line?
Hull: It definitely did. It's a build up. They have the week designed so that everything leads up to the last day. As soon as you're done, it's a lot of pressure lifted off your chest and shoulders knowing that you walk away from Indianapolis and feel good about what you did.
BWI: Watching on TV, it seemed like you were able to stick around with Sean and Navorro to a certain extent. Did that help a little bit having tat familiarity with a couple of guys going through the same thing you were?
Hull: It definitely did. It's a sense of comfort. We've been around each other for the last five years. When you come into an atmosphere that's new to you, you want to stick to people you know that you can trust, that you know have been through the same things that you've been through, that they were there at six o'clock in the morning crying beside you, sweating beside you, they were the ones bleeding with you in the huddle. It was definitely a sense that Penn State kids looked out for one another when we were there in Indianapolis.
BWI: With the rest of the guys that were there working out with you, did anybody else stand out or take charge? It seemed like there were a few flashy guys there.
Hull: Yeah, every kid that was at the Combine I felt definitely deserved to be there. There wasn't anybody that was a slouch that didn't deserve to be there.
The competition among the linebackers was really good. There was a lot of camaraderie amongst the guys. It was a case too where I thought we would get down there and there would be a lot of guys trying to act tough that thought they were better than one another but all 37 of the linebackers got along real well.
When we did have downtime, we were hanging out with each other, joking around and just clowning around, having a real good time with one another. It wasn't a case that no one was there that was different than anybody else. There were a bunch of funny kids. Weatherspoon put a nice show on. He liked being in front of the camera. He can perform though.
BWI: Is there a competitive edge to it? Do you drive each other to perform better?
Hull: Any time you have a sense of competition like there was down there, it makes... if you're any type of athlete, you thrive with competition. So any time something like that goes on, I think it forces everyone to perform at their top capability.
BWI: How was the Wonderlic test?
Hull: I took it three times prior to coming to Indianapolis. I played in an all-star game, took it there, and I took it twice when I was training. I was definitely prepared for that. You have to rush through and get as many questions done as you can in 12 minutes. I think I answered right around 40 questions or a little less than that. I didn't get my score back and I'm not sure what it will be but anything above 18 is good because that's the average on it. I definitely got better than an 18 though, I know that.
BWI: How odd is it taking a test that has nothing to do with football?
Hull: It's definitely something that you're not used to. You're used to seeing Xs and Os and motions and power and it's a tricky situation because if you're not prepared it can definitely catch you off guard. The way the test is designed, the first 10 questions are the easiest and it gets increasingly harder as it goes on. The closer you get to finishing it, the more time you end up having to spend on each question.
BWI: Did you have a chance to see Jared, Andrew or Daryll while you were there?
Hull: Yeah, I saw all of them just here and there. They were on a little bit of a different schedule. We passed each other in the lobby and hung out. Daryll, Sean and I sat down one afternoon and had lunch at the hotel together so we definitely saw each other once in a while.
BWI: Did they all seem to come out of it OK?
Hull: Well, I haven't really gotten to talk to them because our start was later than them.
Quarless was a day ahead of us so we'd see him in the lobby and he was like, I'm telling you boys, you better be ready for that bench press because it's a little intimidating. You're up there on stage all by yourself, so be prepared. It's little things like that they give us heads up on.
BWI: It must have been nice to have a little advance warning on that.
Hull: Yeah, it was, and there were a couple other kids that I trained with in Jersey that were also down there. They did the same thing and I think they were two days ahead of us. I tried to speak with them a little bit at night before I'd go to sleep and after I was done doing interviews just to give me some little tips to keep my edge for the next day or two.
BWI: Of all of the tests and the whole experience, what stood out as the most challenging?
Hull: I don't necessarily think I can pick one part of it because I was so used to putting in - the football stuff is second nature. I've been doing that since I was a little kid, so that really didn't bother me.
I think just looking back on it, it was a very enjoyable experience but it was so stressful. The four days that you were there were extremely high levels of stress and that combination of being stressed out and not being able to relax at night, was the hardest thing to deal with.
BWI: Do other guys crack under that pressure?
Hull: I don't necessarily think that guys freak out and tense up about it because we're used to performing in front of a lot of people. I just think it's physically draining and even though you're not doing anything, you're standing on your feet all day and once it's done, you don't necessarily understand how tired you are until you're actually done and you've competed in all the drills. Then it really sets in, you don't expect to be that tired and that was a lot harder than I was expecting it to be with running or something like that.
BWI: Do the NFL Network cameras change anything? Is that a big presence while you're there or do you not even notice those?
Hull: Yeah, at this point in your career, we're so used to being in front of a camera that didn't really bother me too much.
BWI: So what will these next couple of weeks hold for you before Pro Day?
Hull: We have our Pro Day on March 17th at Penn State. Dennis Landolt and I are both training together still and we're at Penn State now though, so we're trying to do the same regimen that we did in Jersey. We do our runs first thing in the morning, take a little break, get something to eat, and then do our lifting in the afternoon.
BWI: Has anybody else come back to work out or is it just you two guys right now?
Hull: It's just us right now. There's some other kids that stayed at Penn State to train. Nerraw McCormack and Dontey Brown, he was a linebacker that transferred and he came back to train, so those two guys are here working with Jeremy right now.
BWI: Will this week be nice with nobody else around during spring break?
Hull: Yeah, it will be a peaceful environment with not too much distractions, a lot of work getting done, that's all.
BWI: With the Combine under your belt, is this of equal importance? How do you approach it?
Hull: For me, I think the 40 aspect running at Pro Day is of more importance than it was at the Combine because I didn't run as well as I wanted to. So, I definitely have to put a lot of emphasis on the importance of me running well at the Pro Day, but with that said, I'm coming into this Pro Day with a completely different mindset than I went into Indianapolis with.
I was ultra focused in Indianapolis and I think almost maybe too focused on the 40 and worrying about doing everything right. I'm going to come into the Pro Day and just be completely relaxed, knowing that I know what I need to do. It's just a matter of me putting my hand on the ground, doing what's natural and not over-thinking everything. I already performed all the other drills so I know what I need to do, it's just a matter of repetition and repeating what I did.
BWI: Were there events that other guys sat out of that you did in Indy?
Hull: Yeah, it's your choice. If you don't want to run the drill, you had the choice not to do it.
BWI: Now that Pro Day is coming along and you set such good times at the Combine, is there anything you'll sit out of?
Hull: Yeah, I don't think I'm going to get my height measured because I ended up measuring in a little bit higher at Indianapolis than they have me at Penn State, so I'm not going to get that done. I'm not going to bench press anymore. I hit that 25 times and they said unless you can hit it 30, it's not really good to do it again. You're not gaining anything by doing it twice. So I'm not going to bench again, not going to do my short shuttle. I'm going to try to jump again, do the L drill again. I ran a 6.86 in the L drill and I know I can run faster than that so I'm going to try to beat that at the Pro Day, and obviously I'm going to run the 40 again.