SEC Special Report: The NFL Combine > SEC > NEWS
  • JOIN THE SECNATION   Register / Login
  •  

    SEC Special Report: The NFL Combine

    SportsPowerWeekends.com founder/editor Jared Cooper was on-hand at the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis to catch up with some former SEC stars to talk about their experiences playing in the SEC and what makes the SEC the best conference in college football.

    As if there was any doubt about which conference was the best in college football, the past five BCS National Champions and three of the past four Heisman Trophy winners hail from the SEC. The SEC also sports some of the toughest stadiums to play in, as well as the game’s greatest coaches. But don’t take my word for it. I asked some of the NFL’s future stars hailing from the SEC to tell me in their own words.

    What makes the SEC the best conference in college football? 

    Alabama QB Greg McElroy: I think the constant competition and the fact that every week you have to bring your “A” game. If you have one slip-up you can get knocked off relatively easily. There are a lot of great teams and a lot of great coaches and a lot of the teams are very well prepared.

    Alabama RB Mark Ingram: The overall number of athletes that are in the game. The big guys are fast, the small guys are fast. The speed of the game and how physical it is.

    LSU RB Stevan Ridley: You look at the last five National Champions, and they have all been out of the SEC. So if you look at Cam Newton, Patrick Peterson and Nick Fairley, those are three top-10 picks coming out of the conference. Not to mention Mark Ingram, the Heisman Trophy Winner; it is loaded with talent down there. You play the best of the best, and if you can get the job done there I think you can get it done in the pros.

    Kentucky RB Derrick Locke: The speed and the physicality of our players. It is crazy. Everything happens so fast and it kind of simulates how the NFL is going to be.

    Kentucky WR Randall Cobb: The competition. Week in and week out we are going against the best guys. As you see the SEC puts so many guys in the league and we win so many championships; we are the best conference in the nation. I think it gives us a bit of an edge that we are playing against so many of the guys that are in the league now.

    LSU WR Terrence Toliver: I think we have a lot of great athletes. We have some of the best athletes in the country, the best coaches, and a lot of fast guys that bring it every weekend. I think it is similar to the NFL, though I haven’t gotten there yet.

    South Carolina WR Tori Gurley: The talented players and the star coaches. Coach Spurrier brings out the best in any player, including opponents. When you go through that on a weekly basis, it prepares you for the next level.

    Tennessee TE Luke Stocker: I think it is the fans. SEC football is the premiere league. All of the top players wasn’t to play in the SEC and the majority of the top recruits go to the SEC, so you get these teams down there that are all loaded with talent from the top recruits in the country. They want to play in environments like Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, Auburn; their fans are so passionate about football and that is what makes it so great.

    Florida OL Carl Johnson: I would say the passion about football. I think the fans are more into it than the actual players some times. Going to opposing teams’ stadiums and seeing how they treat you, they look like they are about to come out there and play. So I think the fan bases buy into SEC football wholeheartedly.

    LSU DL Pep Levingston: The competition. Everybody is eager to play everyone else we play hard. It is a physical conference and if you don’t bring your ‘A’ game any team can beat you any given day.

    What was your most memorable moment playing at your stadium?

    Alabama QB Greg McElroy:
    Probably throwing the touchdown pass to Marquis Maze to beat Auburn 36-0. That was probably it.

    Alabama RB Mark Ingram: That 246 (rushing yard performance) that I put up against South Carolina.

    LSU RB Stevan Ridley: I would have to say beating the home state, beating Ole Miss, and scoring the winning touchdown in that game late. We were in a shootout and that is normally not our style of football at all. But we ended up going in there and to go out there and score the winning touchdown was my most memorable moment for sure.

    Kentucky WR Randall Cobb: My most memorable moment was against South Carolina when we upset them. Making that catch at the end up to put us up and having everyone rush the field at the end, that was wild.

    Kentucky RB Derrick Locke: Beating LSU, beating number one when I was a freshman. I was a little baby out there running against the number one defense in the country and doing good and succeeding. It let me know that I could be a factor in the SEC and also in the country.

    South Carolina WR Tori Gurley: When we beat the University of Alabama. It was a magnificent time. We were able to go out there and execute in all three phases of the game. It was just the best feeling to give back to the community of Columbia, as well as the Gamecock Nation, to beat the number one school in the country.

    Tennessee TE Luke Stocker: It is hard to say because there are so many of them. There are two times that stick out huge in my memory. The first would be first touchdown at UT, which was against Alabama at Alabama in 2007. It ended up putting us up 14-10 at the half and we ended up losing that game but it was still a huge moment in my career getting my first touchdown and contributing as a freshman. Later on that year we went to four overtimes versus Kentucky and ended up beating them, which put is in the SEC Championship Game. That feeling of accomplishing winning the East and getting to go to the Championship Game was a great feeling.

    Florida OL Maurice Hurt: My most memorable moment playing at The Swamp was probably the first time I ran out of the tunnel. There is nothing like it. Coming from high school into The Swamp with 90,000 people in there and the fans are going crazy – not to slight the National Championship or anything like that – but when you enter The Swamp, whether you are playing or not is an amazing experience. It is humbling and it is everything you could ever dream of. That was probably my most memorable time. Just running out of the tunnel for the first time at The Swamp.

    Florida OL Carl Johnson: I have so many. When we beat South Carolina in 2008. No one ever beat Spurrier that bad.

    What was the most hostile SEC road environment you encountered?

    Alabama QB Greg McElroy:
    Probably LSU. It is a great place. It really is. It is a special place to go into and get a victory at and suffer a defeat at. It really is a crazy, crazy stadium. Those people make it really special.

    Alabama RB Mark Ingram: LSU my freshman year when we went there and played into double overtime. It was loud and I couldn’t even hear myself think.

    LSU RB Stevan Ridley: Auburn. Us and Auburn. I will remember that for the rest of my life. Cam (Newton) took over, and also Nick Fairley. Those are two of the better players I have seen in my career for sure. With Fairley, we couldn’t keep him out of the backfield. He was pretty good. Our offensive line works hard and if you look at the film our offensive line dominated 95% of the people they faced this year, but Nick Fairley found a way to get back there. Also Cam just turned the ground on offense. The Heisman was well deserved on his part.

    Kentucky WR Randall Cobb: I would say Florida. In The Swamp the fence is right there, the fans are right on your neck, and they are yelling everything. It is crazy. That is one of the most hostile environments I have been in.

    Kentucky RB Derrick Locke: There were a few. I would have to say South Carolina on Thursday night. We went down there and it was warm ups and it was crazy. I have never experienced that. I was on the field and couldn’t hear anything.

    LSU WR Terrence Toliver: I would say Florida. We played there this year and they have tough fans. They were doing the Gator Chop on us and they made a few plays.

    South Carolina WR Tori Gurley: I would say Auburn. When we went to Auburn this past year we had them beat, but in the fourth quarter they made a little rally and it was just very hostile. It was just one of those things where you couldn’t hear yourself think or talk to the guy next to you. I’ll take my hat off to that team because they did a pretty good job, but we still feel like we should have beaten them that day.

    Tennessee TE Luke Stocker: Alabama takes the cheese for that one. Especially in 2009 when we got down and they blocked a field goal to hold on and win the game. I made the catch to put us in field goal range, and you could hear a pin drop in that stadium, and it wasn’t two minutes later when they blocked the field goal and that place just absolutely erupted. Alabama doesn’t like Tennessee and their fans are so passionate down there and that is why it is the way it is down there.

    Florida OL Maurice Hurt: We play in the SEC so there are a lot of hostile stadiums. The first time we played at Rocky Top, we played at Death Valley at LSU, oh man. I’ll remember those experiences for the rest of my life. Being in those hostile environments, playing the game you love, facing that adversity with all of the fans going crazy. There is nothing like it.

    Florida OL Carl Johnson: 2009 versus LSU. Most hostile without a shadow of a doubt. That place was rocking. I know. I was in Ground Zero and I couldn’t hear anything. It looked like the stadium was shaking. It was hostile there.

    LSU DL Pep Levingston: Pretty much every game in our conference is always hostile.

    Which NFL stadium are you most looking forward to playing in?

    Alabama QB Greg McElroy:
    Cowboys Stadium. Without a doubt. It is not even close. My dad helped build it.

    Alabama RB Mark Ingram: I want to play in all of them. All 32 of them. You always hear about Lambeau Field and the Cowboys new stadium, so it would be fun to play there. I’d play anywhere.

    Kentucky WR Randall Cobb: It would be great to play at Lambeau Field. It is just a historic field and so much has gone on there. So many great players have played on the field and great coaches have been there. It would be a great opportunity to play in that stadium.

    LSU WR Terrence Toliver: Cowboys Stadium again. I played there for the Cotton Bowl and I though it was the best stadium ever.

    Tennessee TE Luke Stocker: Lambeau Field in Green Bay, and not just because they just won the Super Bowl. All of the history that is there and Coach Lombardi and all of the trophies under him. Obviously Green Bay has a tremendous amount of history in the NFL and a tremendous legacy, so getting to play in Lambeau Field would be very special to me.

    SportsPowerWeekends.com plans trips for sports fans to see multiple sporting events in one weekend in a certain city. You can follow Jared Cooper on Twitter (@SportsPowerWknd) or contact him at Jared.Cooper@SPWtravel.com.