As Combine media sessions go, the 2013 version is very much like the NFL Draft: loaded with talented players, but lacking the standout stars of years past. There is no Cam Newton here to defend the concept of athlete as entertainer, no RGIII or Andrew Luck to give us a peek at the league's next great quarterbacks. A fake girlfriend has, so far, made for the most anticipated press conference of the week.
If only there was someone with a little flair, someone promising to break the event's most cherished 40-yard dash record, someone embracing the intersection of fame and future ...
There actually is a player like that on hand, Leon Sandcastle, a man with Jimi Hendrix's afro, Cheech Marin's mustache and Deion Sanders as his alter-ego. He has been called an "ugly Deion Sanders" from a place called Primetime University. Sandcastle delivers a much-needed breath of bravado with his promise to run a 4.2 forty.
Just look at the man's Combine profile:
You can't spell "incredible" without Leon. Part man, part mouthpiece, Sandcastle talks the talk, walks the walk, then talks some more. Simply put: he's a highlight reel come to life. Mind-numbing athleticism. Instincts that would make migrating salmon envious. Wonderlic-approved intellect combined with championship-producing intangibles. Sandcastle has it all. And he likes to let you know it.
The media would flock to a prospect delivering lines like that. He would be both hated and loved by fans in the same way Sanders infuriated opponents and was revered by his team's fans. Again, not a huge surprise since the two are one and the same.
Listen to this year's draft hopefuls on the podium drives home just what an outsized role media preparations play in the draft process. Ask players, the oldest of which are 22-years old, about everything from their 40 time to where they fit in the pros, and you get a pretty standard set of answers, all well rehearsed.
Players come to Indianapolis with their futures on the line. Everything they say at the podium will be reported instantly, often without context, and digested for weeks by fans and the media. NFL front offices are reading it too, parsing their own meaning as it relates to draft boards. Dropping even a few spots in the draft order can mean millions of dollars, or even the chance to play in the pros.
Our ability to get information from players has nearly met the demand, but because of that we've taken away a player's ability to be remotely interesting, to be themselves when the lights go on and the phones come out.
If Leon Sandcastle were a real prospect in this year's draft, his predetermined test results would give him that rare ability to say almost anything to the microphones in front of him.
It's all right there in his Combine profile:
No one is 100% sure where he came from. But this much is clear following his now-legendary Combine turn: no one cares. The NFL wants Leon Sandcastle.
The NFL and, more importantly, its fans, do want Leon Sandcastle, not the guy with a 4.2 40 time, but the first-round pick who dares approach the draft process with his personality intact.
More in the NFL: