Editor's note: This is the fifth in a series of stories that will follow South Dakota linebacker Tyler Starr as he prepares for May's NFL Draft.
SIOUX FALLS | Back in familiar surroundings, former University of South Dakota standout Tyler Starr is working to improve upon his already impressive marks at the NFL Combine.
The 6-foot-4, 250-pound linebacker from Little Rock, Iowa, had the best time among 35 linebackers in the three-cone drill at the combine at Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis, Ind., on Monday. He was also fourth-best in the 20-yard shuffle and 10th in the bench press.
Starr wasn’t pleased with his 40-yard dash time of 4.95, but is back working at the Sanford Fieldhouse here, with his main emphasis to get faster for his Pro Day on March 13.
“That’s the one thing I really wasn’t happy with,” Starr said in an interview on Wednesday. “I know I can run a whole lot faster than that and I will at my Pro Day.
“It was just kind of a mental thing, I wasn’t confident coming into it. The 40 isn’t something I’ve always been real good at. These past couple months I’ve been trying to do everything I can with it but I knew that wasn’t my strong suit so I kind of focused on the other things to make sure I did well in all of those.”
His 6.64 seconds in the three-cone was duly impressive, trailing only four other athletes in the entire combine. Starr ran 4.15 in the 20-yard shuffle and completed 24 reps in the bench press. His vertical jump measure 32 inches and he had a broad jump of 9 feet, 6 inches.
“I’m back at Sanford Fieldhouse and that’s where I’ve been getting my best 40 work in,” Starr said. “I’m already feeling a lot better with it the last two days and clocking a lot faster times. They changed my 40 technique a little when I went down to D1 (training center in Nashville, Tenn.) and I wasn’t confident with it and when I got to the combine it showed.”
Make no mistake about it, the NFL Combine is a grueling experience all the way around.
Starr said on the first day they checked into the hospital for complete physical exams in six different rooms with team doctors throughout the building. The next morning they were awaken for random drug testing at 4 a.m.
“It’s basically like taking a car to a body shop and doing a full service on it,” he said. “Trying to diagnose anything and everything that’s wrong with it.”
Then come interviews with teams and the media before the actual combine even begins.
“It’s a lot to take in in a little amount of time,” Starr said. “It was one of the more tougher things I’ve had to experience but I’m thankful for the opportunity because it’s made me a better, stronger player. I found some weaknesses of mine and I can really focus on those.
“I wasn’t really confident (at the combine), I was so caught up with being there with all these extreme athletes and sort of doubted myself a little bit. The 40 time hurt my confidence and people were saying I wasn’t really finishing in my drills. I was so nervous and uncomfortable that I wasn’t myself there.”
That, Starr said, is something he can recognize heading into his Pro Day, when NFL types come to Sioux Falls.
“I guarantee you’re not going to see that out of me. I’m going to be that caged animal that I’ve always been,” Starr said. “I’m going to be aggressive and finish everything like I’ve been known to do. I’m looking forward to improving myself on my Pro Day.”