Draft Diary: Notre Dame DE Stephon Tuitt tracks path to the NFL (Part II)
Stephon Tuitt, who played defensive end at Notre Dame, is projected to be a first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Tuitt will take you through the process of training for the NFL Combine, his pro day and the anticipation for draft day. (PART I)
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — I was really excited to get to the NFL Combine until I learned of some unfortunate news.
When I arrived to Indianapolis it was surreal. This was my dream. It was my opportunity to show everyone what I’m about. Just to be around some of the best players in college was a great honor and accomplishment. My weeks of training prepared me for this situation and I was going to capitalize on the opportunity.
Once I received the schedule, it began. It was hectic. Throughout the whole time I was there I literally got seven or eight hours of sleep because my anxiety was so high. Even though not a lot of people get this chance and people had fun with it, I wanted to be on my A-game. I got a chance to see some of my former teammates, which was really cool. I also got to meet with a variety of teams there.
I had at least 10 to 12 meetings with different teams a day. I’m very blessed and I was happy about that. It was very important to me to treat every meeting as a professional. They want to know as much about you in a short-time period. It was hard and they go through the good and the bad about yourself. At the end of the day I would be mentally exhausted, but I just couldn’t sleep. Every time I got done with a meeting I would wonder how I did, but I just always gave them the truth. I was appreciative for the teams’ interest and I told them I was going to surprise them with my workout.
On medical day I felt good. I wanted to get through the examinations and gear up for my workout. I got to the last doctor of the day and he says, “Hey, what’s this on the side of your foot?” I didn’t know. I guess they saw something in the X-rays and they started squeezing it. I told them that I didn’t feel any pain. It felt fine. My left foot felt great. I thought I was all good then I realized multiple teams wanted to do MRI’s on my foot just to see if there was something there or not.
I get to the MRI and I was there for hours, but then I had more meetings to attend. I was full of anxiety, but I just prayed that there wasn’t anything to prevent me from working out. I just needed a chance to perform so I can end all negative talk about me.
I came back the next day and the medical staff calls me down from the hotel. I felt good. I was excited. Then the doctor sat me down and said, “I’m sorry to tell you, but you have a stress fracture in your foot. You can’t perform at the NFL Combine because of liability reasons.”
My heart completely stopped. Just writing about it, it fuels me with fire because I wanted to compete and show my skillset. Knowing that I couldn’t run at the Combine was absolutely devastating and it was one of the hardest things to hear. I then had to meet with more teams, and I needed to make sure I kept a strong frame of mind amongst this adversity.
Everything happens for a reason and I just stayed strong. That’s all I could do. I did the 31 reps on the bench and measured in well. Instead of performing I supported my former teammates and the guys I worked out with.
My agency and I decided to hold a pro day a week later at Lovett High School in Buckhead, Georgia. More than 20 teams showed up and watched me go to work. I gave it everything I had and it felt so good doing it because people told me I couldn’t. Everyone came to watch me. They saw how hard I’ve been working, weighing in at 304.
It meant a lot to me because everybody stayed from the beginning to the end. That showed that they respected me and I showed them my work ethic.
I felt like my pro day was a new beginning and that I proved I’m an elite prospect. Whoever comes and gets me is going to draft someone who works their tail off. Now I’m setting up team meetings for April and recovering from my surgery. I had my operation a little over a week ago. I can already walk and I feel great.
It’s just a waiting game, but I’m confident in my abilities that I’ll get back to 100 percent very soon.