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Top prospects' journeys converge in Dallas before draft

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Around The NFL's Jeremy Bergman is on the ground in Dallas, roving from one pre-draft event to another to chronicle the stories of the draft's top prospects. Their paths converge Thursday night at AT&T Stadium. These are their tales:

Bradley Chubb isn't holding the Old Spice box at the right angle, but that's about the only thing the N.C. State defensive end has done wrong the past three months.

A busy man in the final 24 hours before his name is called within the first hour of the NFL Draft, Chubb is almost done for the day, and a long day at that. After making sure Old Spice's myriad deodorants are visible to the photographer, he is handed two footballs and told to sign them with silver Sharpies. To whom, who knows? Chubb then turns to me, "Last but not least."

At the end of one slog of a media tour, one Chubb called "strenuous," the defensive end isn't sweating the stresses and demands of entering the league. "It's all good," Chubb told me. "It's something I've envisioned myself doing, so I'm just happy to be able to do it."

The top defensive player in this year's draft, according to most, er, all analysts, Chubb's dream is about to come true, and it's going to happen quickly. The prospect has been projected to go in the top 10 in nearly every mock draft and in the top five in most. Many have Chubb going to the Cleveland Browns at No. 4, but Cleveland might not have the No. 4 pick by the time it comes around. The Browns are reportedly fielding multiple calls about the selection, their second in the top four.

If there's movement up top on Wednesday night or Thursday morning, Chubb won't know anything about it. He said he and his family are putting down their phones as soon as our sit-down is over and turning off social media.

If the Browns are still interested in Chubb, they haven't been open about drafting him. Cleveland didn't even hold Chubb for a Top 30 visit, not that the defensive end minded.

"I feel like it's a compliment to me," Chubb explained. "Just because at the combine, they got everything they needed to know. I don't have a bad history. So it's just research. It [speaks to] how clean of a guy I am and how much I'm about my business and how well my parents raised me pretty much."

Chubb said the Browns were very hard on him during his combine meeting, replaying the worst of Chubb's plays in college, like being a step late on a contain.

Cleveland already has a young defensive end stud in house: Myles Garrett, whom the Browns selected first overall last year. Chubb said if he was paired with an "athletic freak" like Garrett, there'd be chaos for opposing offenses.

"Playing opposite a former first-overall pick would be pretty cool," Chubb said. "There will be a lot of game-planning going into that week. At N.C. State, we had a dominant d-line like that ... and I feel like it won't be my first time playing with another group of guys that are pretty good."

Repping the new Captain scent (fitting) from Old Spice this week to avoid "nervous sweats," Chubb also touched on a comment made by yet another Old Spice spokesman. When Von Miller concurred Chubb's self-assessment last week that the prospect was a combination of Miller and Khalil Mack, it inspired the young defensive end.

"He might not know, but it's going to push me to be a better player, and I want to prove him right and earn that respect from him."

Chubb also wants in on Miller's bizarre Old Spice commercials, citing, "I've got good dry humor." (Dry humor, dry pits. I smell synergy ... and Captain scent.)

The defensive end has stayed cool through this three-month process, thanks to the deodorant he's hawking and a level head. As an inordinate amount of media attention picks up and the draft nears, you'd forgive Chubb for getting nervous, perspiring both physically and mentally. And he still might.

But the Wolfpack great told me that to overcome stress before Thursday night's festivities he will fall back on some Tar-Heelish advice.

"Something my coach always told me back in high school was Michael Jordan gets nervous too," Chubb concluded. "When you're nervous, something's going to happen. I don't mind being nervous."

***

Roquan Smith has seen his name rise in mock drafts and draft boards over the last three months, often past fellow prospect Tremaine Edmunds and even into the top six.

But until the draft kicks off, the Georgia linebacker can't pay much attention to any media speculation or interest from the teams he visited with -- Bears, Bills, Colts, 49ers, Giants, Raiders, Ravens.

"All of them showed the same level of interest," Smith told NFL.com in an interview Wednesday, "but you know, on draft day, anything can happen. A team that you never spoke to can come out of nowhere and just" -- making an arm motion -- "SWOOP. Swoop right in."

Smith further insists that he doesn't mind where he's drafted as long as "it's the best fit" for him, "whether it's blah-blah or Germany."

On the night before draft day, Smith is at ease, smiling at every question and eager to crack jokes, sometimes at this reporter's expense.

>> When Smith tells me he was a Falcons and a Steelers fan growing up, his high school coach, sitting right next to Smith, corrects him, "Yeah, depending on who was winning."

>> As Smith starts talking about using razors from Gillette, the company he's repping on draft week, he turns to his coach, bald as a cue ball, and says, "I'm going to look like that tomorrow! Everyone's going to be like, 'Roquan Smith has a bald head!'"

>> After unveiling that before becoming an unbiased member of the media, I had season tickets to Jets games, Smith remarked, "Oh man, I bet that's tough for you then," before recalling the success of the Chad Pennington and Mark Sanchez regimes.

>> When I mention he and Edmunds are considered the top linebackers in the draft, Smith stops me, "You said I'm the top linebacker in the draft?"

Most analysts are saying that, and coaches see glimpses of greatness in Smith, too. The linebacker told me coaches with whom he has met compare him to Jonathan Vilma, Derrick Brooks, Lavonte David and even Ray Lewis.

As for Smith, his favorite linebacker growing up in Georgia was Patrick Willis.

The 49ers, who are sitting at No. 9 and in prime position to draft Smith, will like that one.

***

Connor Williams has been through enough adversity in his life. The final 24 hours until draft night are nothing.

The towering Texas tackle has already overcome bullying at a young age, a revolving door of coaching staffs in Austin and an injury that kept him out of seven games in his final year in school. Williams says he sees the "uncomfortable" draft process as just another adverse situation on his path toward the pros.

"Of course things didn't go according to plan," Williams said of his three seasons at Texas, over which his Longhorns compiled 17-20 record. "I had three offensive line coaches and three OCs in three years. I think it's a good thing to go through so you can learn and become a better football player and a better person, because we went through a lot of adversity."

Williams added that that staff turnover helped him in the lead-up to the draft, as he was able to understand and recall better different schemes presented to him by the teams.

Considered one of the top three tackles in the draft, along with Notre Dame's Mike McGlinchey and UCLA's Kolton Miller, Williams added what sets him apart is his athleticism and ability to play inside at guard or center if necessary. Despite missing seven games in 2017, Williams says teams will get the right read on him from his freshman and sophomore tape.

The tackle cited Falcons tackle Jake Matthews, former Browns tackle Joe Thomas and Cowboys tackle Tyron Smith as his top influences.

Decked out in black alligator belly boots and hawking Gillette products with a slight stubble, Williams dressed with and presented confidence. (His media photo shows him with a raggedy beard and longer hair, a look that Williams tells me will not return.)

His bout with bullying, which he chronicled for NFL.com, appears worlds away. But anti-bullying is still an important cause Williams desire to champion, especially now that he's a professional.

"After that letter, a lot of kids and a lot of parents and people said it touched them or they're going through the same situations and have reached out to say thank you," Williams described. "If it gives them any comfort in it, it was all worth it."

***

Shaquem Griffin is the feel-good story of the NFL Draft, but there's no guaranteeing that he is out of the green room by the end of Thursday or even Friday.

The UCF linebacker has no time for those worries. Not when he's getting comped bundles of swag.

"What's not to love about it?" Griffin said excitedly about the arduous draft process. "We getting free stuff. I heard we getting a free XBOX. There's free food, lobster, shrimp. They told me we could go to a spa and take some family members. I told my mama about it. I mean, why not enjoy it? We around kids, playing football, dancing. ... My mom and dad are waiting for me to get home so we can probably have a dance party."

One thing Griffin is worried about, deadly so, is becoming a meme for the wrong reasons.

"I just hope I don't cry too bad where I got snot coming down my nose," he said. "I do not want to get caught on camera with snot coming down the nose because I know people will make fun of me."

Breaking: Mucinex is on the other line.

***

Derrius Guice is a character, and certain organizations dinging him for it.

NFL Network's Tom Pelissero detailed in a report last week that sources at teams around the league have described Guice as a "high maintenance" prospect with "a lot of personality," which raised questions about his maturity.

In a sit-down interview with Guice on Wednesday, the running back told NFL.com that he was having none of that disinformation.

"I don't think it's coaches [who are saying that] because coaches love the way I play. Coaches love what's going on. I just think it's all media reports," Guice theorized. "I don't think it's GMs, this or that, because when you talk to teams, if they have problem, they'll ask you about it. ... If a team wants to know something, they're gonna ask you. I feel like if a team had a concern with me, they would've asked me."

Guice says the negative chatter about his attitude must come from "other agents" or "somebody that wants me to fall to them." The LSU back would prefer the conversation around his draft status turn back toward his play on the field.

"Everyone around me knows who I am. I've never had issues, never been in trouble in any type of way, never had any problems," Guice said. "All that emotional stuff? Man, when I'm on the field, I ain't emotional. I'm an angry beast out there."

The tailback has earned comparisons to Beast Mode himself, Marshawn Lynch, for his hard-running style, but wouldn't mind garnering comparisons to his fellow LSU alumni in the NFL, most notably Leonard Fournette (his backfield mate for two seasons), Tyrann Mathieu and Odell Beckham. Speaking on behalf of Head and Shoulders, Guice said Beckham was one of the reasons why he hooked up with the brand.

The back added that he "should be" a first-round pick. Guice has been linked to the Eagles, Patriots, Ravens and Buccaneers. As a Louisiana native, the back says he has never played in the snow before, which falls heavily on many of those teams in winter, but he'd ball regardless because he gives off a lot of body heat. "My body is naturally warm," Guice boasted.

Wherever he ends up, the tailback will be paying homage to his father -- who was murdered when Guice was just seven years old -- while breaking big runs, building his new life and especially walking across the stage on Thursday or Friday.

"Before he died, he told me I was going to be the football man of the house when I was six. That's really what got me into football to begin with," said Guice. "Now I want him to see literally how far I've come to play football and how I have stayed on a straight and narrow path to the way I am now.

"This stuck with me. He always told me he was going to run down the sideline when I scored my first touchdown. Obviously he wasn't there to do it, but I feel him there."

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