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What we learned: Takeaways from Day 1 at the NFL combine

  • By Chase Goodbread and Dan Parr NFL.com
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Things we learned on Day 1 of the NFL Scouting Combine:

1. Manziel's 'a world-beater'

No one has had a closer look at Johnny Manziel's draft training than George Whitfield, Manziel's personal quarterback coach, and the QB guru couldn't have been stronger in his support for the former Texas A&M QB in an exclusive interview with College Football 24/7 on Thursday.

2. Ebron plenty confident

Former North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron is one of the most intriguing talents in this year's draft, and he knows it.

3. Flying Fleming

Stanford right tackle Cameron Fleming doesn't sound too concerned about life after football. Asked what he'll do with his Stanford degree post-football career, Fleming didn't hesitate.

"I'm an aeronautics major, so I would like to build jet planes," he said.

Insert Fleming-to-Jets joke here.

Football, in fact, isn't what Fleming grew up on.

"I'm from Houston, so NASA is right there. Both my parents have been in the military, my dad was an air defense officer," he said. "I've been around it basically my entire life."

4. Amaro talks Pats

NFL Media analyst Mike Mayock and Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro make up a two-man consensus that Amaro would be a strong fit with the New England Patriots, who could be in search of a second tight end to match with Rob Gronkowski, similar to the complement that Aaron Hernandez once provided as a slot receiver. And it just so happens that the Patriots' first-round pick is within the range of where Amaro is expected to get the call.

5. Legendary lineage

Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews' father, Bruce, is an NFL Hall of Famer at the same position. Expected to be a first-round pick, Matthews is entering the NFL with high expectations, but not quite father-high.

"I've gone back and looked at him -- just a guy who played hard, finished, really impressive to watch. I'm proud to call him my father," Jake Matthews said. "I'm trying to do the same thing he did, and if I could do half the things he did, I think I'd have a great career. It's going to be hard to get to 19 years and 14 straight Pro Bowls -- that could be difficult. ... That's a pretty lofty goal to shoot for."

6. Past hounds Lyerla

With a cocaine arrest and other transgressions red-flagging his NFL potential, the scrutiny former Oregon tight end Colt Lyerla faced Thursday was greater than any other player there. In fact, of the 335 players invited for the entire week, perhaps none will feel the interview heat quite like Lyerla. The once-thought-to-be first-round talent is now just hoping to get picked to play somewhere. Anywhere. And he sounded Thursday like a man who knows his final chance is upon him.

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7. Expect Sam to be welcomed

The coaches and general managers that were asked about Michael Sam on Thursday seemed to agree he would be welcomed as the first openly gay active NFL player. 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh suggested that media would make more of an issue of Sam's sexuality than his teammates would, and Jets head coach Rex Ryan said as long as Sam does his job well, there shouldn't be any issues.

"I think he'd be welcomed," Ryan said. "It would be no different than any other player we have. One thing I know for sure (is) you're going to have 53 different players ... what they look like, height, weight, married, single ... any of these. Everybody is different. The main thing we always talk about is respect in our locker room. Even though we're different, everybody is different. It's a respect thing. If a young man is a good football player and a good teammate, that's all we ask of him. He'd fit in just like the rest of our guys."

8. James endorses Sam

Prospects commented Thursday on Sam, too. Tennessee right tackle Ja'Wuan James said he believes Missouri defensive end Michael Sam is the toughest pass rusher he faced in his years with the Volunteers. And he made sure to note that he made the same statement last summer, long before Sam became the NFL's first openly gay draft prospect.

"I'd say Michael Sam. He's a high-motor guy. I was talking about that last year," James said. "They asked me last year who was the SEC's most underrated player, and I said Michael Sam. Nobody was really talking about him, but I knew he was a guy who played with high energy."

Presumably, James isn't counting Jadeveon Clowney in that assessment. While James went one-on-one with Clowney for a few plays last October, it was Tennessee left tackle Antonio Richardson, another combine participant, who had the Clowney assignment for most of the game.

9. Seferian-Jenkins defends character

It wasn't exactly a Lyerla-level grilling, but Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins took several pointed questions about a DUI arrest from 11 months ago in which he crashed his vehicle and was found to have a blood-alcohol level of more than double the legal limit. His common refrain: It was a one-time incident, and that NFL clubs who spend time with him will be convinced he has learned his lesson.

10. Richburg opening eyes

Colorado State center Weston Richburg's Senior Bowl performance helped him rise to rank No. 2 among draftable centers, according to NFL Media analyst Mike Mayock. Richburg said Pittsburgh's Aaron Donald was the toughest blocking assignment he faced all week at the Senior Bowl, and knew he had to be at his best.

"My goal at the Senior Bowl was to go there and really open eyes. I'm from the Mountain West Conference. We don't really get a lot of love from a lot of people," he said.

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