Over the past week, hundreds of prospects have eagerly traveled to Indianapolis to participate in the NFL's annual Scouting Combine, hoping to show the 32 teams just what they are capable of in order to become one of the valuable draft selections in April.
If you've seen any of the NFL Network's coverage of the events at the RCA Dome, you have an idea of the rigorous testing - both physically and mentally - that these athletes are put through.
Each one of the participants is extensively weighed and measured and put through a circuit of medical exams. They then have the opportunity to showcase their physical talent through a variety of speed, agility, and football-related drills.
On top of all of that - and perhaps even more important than the physical aspect - players have a chance for interview sessions with coaches, general managers, and other high-ranking team officials.
Seven years ago, Ahman Green was a speedy running back who had given up his final year of eligibility at the University of Nebraska to chase his dream of playing on Sundays. Looking back on his experience at the Combine in 1998, Green had some mixed feelings about those pressure-packed days.
He said while it was a great chance to gain exposure in front of the scouts and personnel executives, all of the poking and prodding was a bit unnerving.
"To me, it was a meat market," Green said. "I felt like a big heifer from Nebraska getting weighed and measured and everything to see how I looked, and maybe one day get slaughtered. But it was both a good and bad experience. It kind of showed you what the NFL is about, the business part of it.
"They're looking at you - to put it bluntly - like a piece of cattle, a piece of meat. And they want to make sure they're getting a good product. If they're going to spend a million dollars or more on you, they've got to make sure that you look like a guy that's going to last a long time."
Green, now a four-time Pro Bowl back, says his experience in Indy was a somewhat harrowing one at the time, but beneficial in the long run.
"I was there for two days and those were probably the longest two days of my life," he said. "(You have to) stay up late and get up early because you've got X-rays and all the medical tests all day long and then you've got to meet with the teams that want to talk to you.
"When I think back on it - even though I might have some negatives - I'm glad I went through it because it gave me a bit of a look into how things are in the NFL and what it was going to take to get to where I am now."
As far as his performance at the Combine, Green's not sure how much it affected his draft status.
"I did alright, but I was a little injured at the time of the Combine," he recalled. "I had a pulled groin, so I was held back in terms of running (Green later reportedly ran the 40-yard dash in 4.29 seconds in a workout for the Seattle Seahawks, the team that would go on to draft him). But it helped me be seen and gave the teams a chance to get to know me a little bit. I don't know if the Combine brought me up higher or dropped me down lower, but I still went in the third round."
While he realizes the benefits that the Combine can have, both for the players and for the teams, Green says that the preparation for the physical tests you undergo in Indianapolis is far different than what you will need to do in order to succeed on the field in the NFL.
"The physical training for the Combine is more intense," he said. "As a guy coming out of college, the pressure of leaving school and trying to impress the scouts is very intense. You have a lot of things to think about.
"I thought, 'I'm putting everything into this, because if I don't get drafted, I'm going to have to go free agent. Then if I can't even go free agent, I'm going to have to go back to school, finish my degree, and go on with my life if football is not the avenue for me.' But I knew if I put my heart into it and my hard work into it, I would get drafted and make the best of it for whatever team I was at."
Green thinks that although the Combine is a great way to get more insight to a player and what he might bring to your team, the true test will be when that rookie hits the field later that summer.
"You can probably learn about 50% percent of what kind of player you'll be getting from the physical and mental looks you get at a player at the Combine," he opined. "The rest of it, you're going to have to wait until he plays his first NFL game and then you know what you've got."
This week could be one of the biggest in the lives of many players in the next crop of NFL stars. For at least one Pro Bowl runner, his experience at the Combine was two days he'll never forget.