Duke football's Ross Cockrell prepares for NFL CombineDuke's Chick-fil-A Bowl loss was not just the end of cornerback Ross Cockrell's collegiate football career, it was the beginning of his push toward the NFL.
Cockrell is not enrolled at Duke this semester, instead choosing to migrate to California and begin his preparation for the NFL draft. The former Blue Devil is doing his strength and conditioning training with Athletes First, the company that will represent the cornerback in his prospective NFL career.
Less than three weeks after the Blue Devils' loss to Texas A&M, Cockrell was back on the gridiron. Although he was sporting a Duke helmet, the Waxhaw, N.C., native wore an unfamiliar red jersey as he suited up for the East squad in the annual East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. Cockrell was one of the standout performers for his team, sealing the East's 23-13 victory with a one-handed interception in the final two minutes of the game.
"I got to spend time with guys from all different parts of the country, all different schools," Cockrell said. "We got to prepare for how professional football is going to be and make some lasting friendships."
The East-West Shrine Game gave Cockrell the opportunity to practice and play in front of NFL scouts for the week leading up to the game, gain additional instruction from a new set of coaches and meet with executives from a number of NFL teams for interviews.
"You get the chance to sit down with NFL scouts and NFL general managers and let them get to know you a little bit," Cockrell said. "You get to let them see what kind of person you are."
Cockrell added that after leading his squad to a 10-4 season and an ACC Coastal Division title, NFL scouts "know the story of Duke football."
With the Shrine Game now in the rearview mirror, Cockrell's focus shifts toward the NFL Scouting Combine, the league's top exhibition of collegiate talent. More than 300 NFL hopefuls are expected to compete at this year's Combine, which will be held Feb. 22-25 in Indianapolis.
As Cockrell continues his training in California, he said that improving his strength will be his primary focus for the Combine.
"I'm working on total body strength and just making sure that I'm as healthy as possible going into the Combine," Cockrell said. "Those are the two things that I really want to accomplish."
He also will focus heavily on the 40-yard dash, which NFL scouts typically use as a barometer for young cornerbacks. Although Cockrell was known more for his superior ball skills during his career at Duke and not for his blazing speed, the former Blue Devil said he is confident that he can break 4.40 seconds later this month in Indianapolis.