INDIANAPOLIS -- It's said there is strength in numbers. Never is that more evident than at the NFL Scouting Combine.
A bevy of players cited the presence of their teammates as a significant advantage in helping them through the arduous combine process.
Southern California leads the way with 12 participants. Because of their numbers, they are able to draw on each other for support despite the divisions that can be created by the combine process.
The combine staggers position groups, who arrive and depart on different days and work out with each other separately from the other positions.
There are so many Trojans, though, that they are able to lean on each other for support despite the separations.
"I just know for myself and I've talked to a couple other guys, it's just really good to have familiar faces here," said Southern California linebacker Thomas Williams. "You know this experience can be mind-boggling, overwhelming at times. But if you know you look to your left, you look to your right and you see a familiar face it makes the experience a lot more fun and a little easier."
When faced with a pivotal drill, Williams said the support really becomes important.
"If you're getting ready to do the bench press or the 40 and you had a friend on the team that's here and he motivated you during practice and you just look at him, you look him in the eyes and he just gives you the nod up or down or whatever you guys have, I just think it makes it so much more relaxed and you'll perform better," said Williams.
Williams was not the only player to express those thoughts. Louisville has six players present, and wide receiver Harry Douglas said they have helped each other out through the experience.
"There's a lot going on right down here," said Douglas. "So to have a teammate of yours supporting you and you supporting him is always good."
Boston College's contingent includes five players. Linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar said the players formed a bond years ago as freshman.
"Freshman year we always said that we were going to be different, we were going to win games, we were going to win some games, we were going to make some things happen at BC. You can ask Matt (QB Matt Ryan), you can ask Gosder (OT Gosder Cherilus), Trib (DB DeJuan Tribble), we've always talked about it and we worked hard," said Dunbar.
What's in a name?
The first thing most people want to know about Gosder Cherilus is the origin of his first name. He has been asked about it -- again and again -- at the combine.
"There's no story behind the name," said Cherilus, an offensive tackle from Boston College. "I've been asked this question many times. I went home and called my father and asked, 'Where did the name come from?' At first he said, 'You don't like the name?' I said, 'No, I just want an answer for these guys (the media).'
"He wanted something unique and that's what he came up with. Pretty creative, huh?"
It might soon become a household name. Cherilus is considered a mid- to-late first-round draft pick.
Hurricane Katrina memories linger
LSU cornerback Jonathon Zenon hopes to do well in the combine and set himself up for a future in the NFL. Zenon has a national championship season with the Tigers under his belt and back-to-back BCS bowl victories.
Long before those emotional highs, though, he and the rest of his region had to deal with the tragic effects of Hurricane Katrina. The natural disaster changed his life and motivated him on the field to play the best football possible in honor of the suffering hometown fans.
"It really affected me a lot, because I had family members that lived in New Orleans and they had to come back and live with us," said Zenon. "A lot of guys got motivated by it. I know the whole state of Louisisana was motivated. And we're a big factor in Louisiana and I think we're one of the main teams out there that try to represent Louisiana well and that's what we tried to do that year."
Going it alone
Notre Dame safety Thomas Zbikowski is an amateur boxer and trains heavily on his own without the help of an academy.
He saw no reason to change that routine leading up to the combine, despite the fact that many other players attend such performance institutes in hopes of helping their workout times.
"I've been training in Chicago, pretty much by myself. I didn't go to any one of those training camps, I've just been training by myself," said Zbikowski, who tied for second among all defensive backs in the bench press on Monday with 24 reps. "Obviously, it's not the most fun thing to do, but it's necessary and it's something that teaches you what it takes to be in the NFL."
Count one fewer patron for the burgeoning industry of athletic training.
Just duck, baby
He also knows not to upset the boss, owner Al Davis.
Asked if he had any memories of Davis, Long said his first recollection is of hiding from Davis while in the car.
"My earliest memory of Al Davis was when I was ducking in the car when I came to visit my dad at training camp. So that was my earliest memory of Al Davis," said Long.
A grinning Long then explained the reason why he was ducking.
"I just remember getting down," he said. "I was very young. I think there were rules and it was a no visitation time, but I was just trying to see Dad!"
Andy Fenelon contributed to this report.