Deon'tae Florence hoping regional combine gets him noticed

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The best advice aspiring NFL cornerback Deon'tae Florence ever received from his older brother came at a football camp when he was only 13.

Florence's older brother, NFL veteran cornerback Drayton Florence, was speaking to a group of kids and telling them what they needed to do to one day put themselves in position to elevate their games. The older Florence told the campers to make sure they take time out of each day to improve their game. That has resonated with Deon'tae Florence ever since.

"If I went a whole day and I had to put a lot of work in school or had a lot of things going on, at night I thought about it," he said. "Then I'd do some push-ups. Let me at least get some push-ups before I go to sleep. That right there has been helping me to out-work people."

Deon'tae Florence has taken a similar path to Drayton, who is 10 years older than him. Drayton attended Division II school Tuskegee but was drafted in the second round by the Chargers in 2003. Deon'tae attended FCS school Weber State and is hoping pro scouts notice him, especially after the NFL Scouting Combine passed him over, not offering an invite. As a result, Deon'tae made the trip to attend the NFL Regional Combine in Baltimore on Saturday, hosted at the Ravens' Under Armour Performance Center. Following his workout, Deon'tae felt optimistic about what he put on film, which will be sent to each of the 32 NFL teams.

"I was calm. I didn't panic much," Florence said. "I could have done better in some of the drills, but I didn't panic. I let the work pay off. I was just flowing through it. It's football. I've been playing football since I was 4 years old."

Deon'tae Florence wasn't the only one at Baltimore's regional combine with an NFL bloodline. Millersville (Pa.) linebacker Reggie Slaton is the nephew of former Texans and Dolphins running back Steve Slaton. Reggie Slaton said his uncle has offered some advice as he pursues the NFL, but that more than anything, he's looking to make a name for himself.

"I'm out here chasing my dream," Slaton said. "Walking in, it's overwhelming. You see this beautiful facility. You see this competition. But at the end of the day you just do what you can do. Hopefully that was enough to impress some people."

Players from various backgrounds were in attendance at Saturday's regional combine, including guys from off-the-radar small schools to FBS Power Five conference starters. One player from the latter group was North Carolina linebacker Travis Hughes, a starter in both the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Admittedly disappointed that he wasn't one of the 320-plus players invited to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis this past February, Hughes said he's still working toward his goal of latching on to a team this season.

"It's a fire that you get from not being there," Hughes said. "My dream isn't crushed yet. There are opportunities like the regional combine to come out and showcase what you got. I hope that's what I did here with a lot of these guys, to show what I got and show I have a lot of passion to play this game."

Ravens coach John Harbaugh made an appearance and gave a pre-workout speech of encouragement to those participating during the morning session. NFL director of football development Matt Birk, who played for the Ravens and Vikings during his 15-year career, told those in the afternoon session to do their best to make this opportunity at the regional combine count.

"This is what these guys deserve," Birk said. "These guys are what the NFL is all about. From a player's standpoint, it's fully dedicating yourself to fulfilling a dream."

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