As the NFL's general managers and coaches gathered for the Annual League Meeting in Phoenix last month, the University of Florida held its pro day. And seemingly all at once, word came in on their phones of a shocking number: 4.77. The buzz started.
That was the 40-yard-dash time run by top cornerback prospect Teez Tabor according to some scouts on the scene, one that immediately led to speculation about how far he'd fall in the draft. This was, after all, coming off a disappointing 4.62 at the combine.
Suddenly, Tabor's pre-draft process became intriguing. With that in mind, I reached out to him this week to learn what went into his two lightning rod runs.
"Teams have been shocked that I ran that slow, because they know I don't play slow -- they watch the film," Tabor said during a phone interview. "It's ridiculous. I just want to let everyone know what was going on."
What Tabor means is this: Right before the combine, he tweaked his hamstring during training and it never fully healed.
He was going back and forth about whether he should actually run in Indianapolis. He was 50/50 a day before the event. "I just wanted to compete," he told me, and ran a 4.62. Some teams had him in the 4.5s, but the number that went public was in the 4.6s.
"I'm not the type to make excuses," Tabor said. "I just wanted to show teams what I'm about. I probably went about it the wrong way, trying to be a knucklehead."
After the combine, he switched trainers for more intensive workouts and treatment to get his hamstring right. He tried one test 40 before his pro day but pulled up lame. That was his only practice run. The rest of the time, he was simply focused on healing.
Before his pro day, he took some ibuprofen, crossed his fingers and ran.
"I was trying to be a tough guy because that's how I am. I was afraid if I didn't run, people would think I'm soft," said Tabor, who subsequently ran the 40 that got everyone talking. "Then I went out during a workout with the Lions and pulled it even worse. They're the only team that really knows. It's still bad now. I probably won't even start running against for three weeks."
Tabor knows there will be some skepticism. He's enjoyed the process and is level-headed about the scrutiny. But it's been interesting.
Some will say that after the slow 40s, come excuses. His agent Malki Kawa has in-depth documentation of all his injuries and rehab work, if that's necessary. This does, at the least, give teams some pause on how much his timed speed means compared to his tape.
"Turn on the tape and see me running step for step with 4.3, 4.4 guys in the SEC -- Malcolm Mitchell and Reggie Davis at Georgia, Josh Malone at Tennessee, guys like that," Tabor concluded. "Everyone I've visited with said they really don't care about that, I play faster."
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