Luke Fickell put it bluntly. For a college football player trying to make it to the next level, it doesn't get much more important than your respective school's pro day.
"It's huge. It's the biggest job interview these kids will every do. It really is," Fickell said Thursday. "Maybe some day they'll have a big one, too, a CEO job interview. But the reality is, that job interview is probably going to be among 10 board members. This is a job interview that's going to be public, just like the combine."
Ohio State's Pro Day holds a bit more gusto this time around than in years past. A total of 22 former Buckeyes are set for workouts, according to the school. ESPN and NFL Network are scheduled to the event live starting at 10 a.m. Big Ten Network gets a taste at 4:30 p.m. to recap the action from arguably the most talented team in the country the 2015 football season.
The onslaught of coverage on the Woody Hayes Athletic Center isn't a surprise. The Buckeyes sent 14 players to the NFL Combine last month, four more than the school with the second-most representation and five more than the team that won the College Football Playoff, Alabama.
Arm room will be at a premium, too.
125 NFL personnel from all 32 teams have already confirmed attendance for Pro Day! Wow! #DevelopedHere— Mark Pantoni (@markpantoni) March 10, 2016
National exposure is a thing Ohio State is used to, and a few players from the 2014 national title team, Steve Miller and Curtis Grant, will also try to pique the interest of scouts, general managers and everyone else in between.
"This is a job interview in front of, I don't know, 400 people," Fickell said. "Everybody is critiquing every little thing that you do. Imagine that. Just picture yourself having a job interview live on TV or in front of 600 people that are critiquing whether you itched your nose, scratched your nose, picked your nose — whatever it is. Whether you step your left foot or your right foot. You're talking about a nerve wracking, quite the experience."
|JOEY BOSA||DEFENSIVE END|
|TAYLOR DECKER||OFFENSIVE TACKLE|
|EZEKIEL ELLIOTT||RUNNING BACK|
|CHASE FARRIS||OFFENSIVE TACKLE|
|CHRIS FONG||DEFENSIVE LINEMAN|
|JEFF GREENE||WIDE RECEIVER|
|JOEL HALE||DEFENSIVE TACKLE|
|JEFFIE JOHNSON||RUNNING BACK|
|JALIN MARSHALL||WIDE RECEIVER|
|BRAXTON MILLER||WIDE RECEIVER|
|STEVE MILLER||DEFENSIVE LINEMAN|
|KATO MITCHELL||WIDE RECEIVER|
|MICHAEL THOMAS||WIDE RECEIVER|
|NICK VANNETT||TIGHT END|
|ADOLPHUS WASHINGTON||DEFENSIVE TACKLE|
It's an experience that could earn a player first round draft status in the eyes of an NFL franchise, or another personal workout with a team to earn a roster spot. Pro day serves a different purpose for each player, as well as NFL team representatives.
"Pro day served a few purposes as an NFL coach," said new Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano, who coached the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2012 and 2013 seasons. "If a guy had performed poorly at the combine, he'll redo some of those things. Say he ran poorly, he'll run again so we can get another time on him. I always liked to be around guys privately where you can talk football and see it."
Schiano came to Ohio State to work for a friend in Urban Meyer and replace Chris Ash, but his NFL ties are notable. He understands and witnessed the difference between the college and pro games. He also knows what to look for in players that can make it in the league, something that is apparent to what Meyer and Ohio State are set to shell out when the NFL Draft opens April 28 in Chicago.
"No. 1, I think it speaks to the job recruiting that Coach Meyer and his staff have done because you're bringing in elite-level players," Schiano said. "Then I think it speaks again to the staff and to (strength coach) Mick (Marotti) and all those guys who have developed those players and then to the players themselves. They put in the effort and are gifted."
The Buckeyes certainly were gifted in 2015. Joey Bosa, Eli Apple, Ezekiel Elliott, Darron Lee, Taylor Decker, Michael Thomas and even quarterback turned wide receiver Braxton Miller all received first round projections by various analysts after the NFL Scouting Combine. Friday goes a long way to preserving those grades among the people that matter, however, the individuals making the call to draft a player for their team.
"The pro days, now you can get a private meeting with them and talk some football and you get to know them better and know their intelligence level as far as football intelligence," Schiano said. "That's really what is served most."
Drills like the 40-yard dash, 20- and 60-yard shuttles and many others are scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. Friday, according to Ohio State. Some players might elect not to do all that is available as a result of feeling confident with their draft standing.
Others, like quarterback Cardale Jones and safety Vonn Bell, might do everything and then some after either struggling at the combine or being unable to work out due to injury. What they choose to do is entirely up to them.
The NFL Draft is rapidly approaching, so all the eyes on Ohio State Pro Day presents one of the final opportunities for players to lay the groundwork for their football future.
"There's a group of guys that have done an incredible job and now have put themselves in position to really have a chance of getting on an NFL football team," Schiano said.