The currency of pash rushers in this years draft has skyrocketed. In the NFL’s pass heavy formations the ability to rush the passer has become the predominant skill needed on defence. And in this years draft, to be held in Nashville Tennessee, it is likely we will see a golden generation of Edge rushers making their way to the NFL.
So, Jachai Polite who dominated the SEC in 2018, amassing 11 sacks, 19.5 tackles for a loss, 45 total tackles and led the NCAA with six forced fumbles is one of those guys who should be near or at the top of that elite list of edge rush talent. Right?
He was. But now is projected to go in the second round.
His performance at the Combine wasnt good. He was outrun and outjumped by all in his class, eventually pulling out of the combine due to a hamstring injury. His pro day wasnt a whole heap better either. But it was the interviews that became the talking point. After the combine, Polite was refreshingly honest.
“It’s been pretty tough, but it’s a major learning experience for me, something I’ve never been through in my life. I just keep learning every day. Nobody in my family has been through anything like this, so I had nobody to help me, really, other than my agent. But I never knew how serious and how mentally tough you had to be for this moment. …At the end of the day they are trying to pay you to play for their team, so I get why they did everything they did. It wasn’t really that bad, I just took it the wrong way and was frustrated and stuff.
“I just wasn’t ready at all. I just wasn’t ready mentally.”
Polite is not alone in finding this process hard. But rarely does a player come out and speak about the process. Mostly for fear of jeopardising his draft stock.
Almost straightaway there was chatter at the Combine of Polite’s damaging interviews. His strength of character was questioned. Mental ability and work ethic all up for debate.
But here’s the rub. Polite is 21. He has been building to this for 4 years but almost certainly longer. This is the job interview of a lifetime. And he gets one shot at it. The hype and pressure on young men is mountainous. And here he is meeting NFL teams, maybe even people he idolises intimidating him, challenging him, even belittling him. It is a full on interrogation.
At this year’s Combine, Texas Star Kris Boyd was asked if he had two testicles. Aside from unsettling Boyd there seemed no acceptable reason for asking that question.
When North Carolina-Charlotte’s Nate Davis offered his hand to shake, it was rebuffed with the team official punching him in the chest. In 2018, The Seahawks representatives asked Lonnie Johnson to stare without blinking for 15 seconds.
Of course this has been going on for years and is clearly a test to see how a young man will react. The NFL is a pressurised business and the teams are paying players a lot of money to suit up.
But do they over step the mark? Well, ask Dez Bryant and he will tell you yes. In 2010 the Miami Dolphins asked Dez if his mother had ever worked as a prostitute. The Dolphins later issued an apology.
Other, inappropriate questions have been “do you like men”, “when did you lose your virginity” and “do you find your mother attractive”. None of which (last time I checked) had anything to do with playing sport.
When Cam Newton was asked if he would rather be a cat or a dog, Cam’s answer was short. “I rather see myself as a human being”. Something the team officials seem to have lost sight of.
In Indianapolis this year Polite singled out the Packers and 49ers being particularly harsh during the interview.
This is a young man who pre combine (when he was being considered a top ten pick) was on record as saying he wanted his Mom to retire when he got his first contract. Certainly now that contract will be less than he first thought.
Whether Polite will overcome this setback and become an NFL star remains to be seen. But surely his advisers or even his school (Florida) could have helped out with some advice or preparation.
Polite will be drafted. He is too talented for someone not to take the gamble. And if it pays off a team will be getting a first round talent at a bargain basement price.
I wish Jachai Polite well in his career. And I hope his Mom gets to retire.
Polite’s Twitter handle? @MomsRetire Enough said.
Photo credit : For the win, USA Today