Combine competition


Mardy Gilyard

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INDIANAPOLIS - Clif Marshall, who turns longshots into locks as one of the new combine czars, has led Mardy Gilyard through more cones than an Interstate 71 work crew. He has pushed him in the 40-yard dash, pulled him through acceleration training and prepped him for the vertical jump.  But he couldn't prepare him for one of the more daunting challenges of this week's NFL scouting combine:

The clarification drill from the indomitable Peter King of Sports Illustrated.

Just to clarify," King asked Gilyard. "When you were living in your car, what parts of town did you live in to make sure you were safe?"

"Over by campus a lot. Portions of Corryville. Some places I shouldn't have been downtown," said Gilyard as he told again the story that never gets old of coming off the streets of Cincinnati to this yellow brick road.

"Did you ever feel you were in danger?" King asked and because he always does Gilyard went off on a great answer about getting used to the sounds of ambulance sirens. 

Gilyard, the University of Cincinnati wide receiver who is openly campaigning for the Bengals to draft him, has become sort of a media darling of this draft. Not only is his story riveting but he tells the truth. Marshall might cringe a bit at times when Gilyard goes on about his physical ailments to the press, but that's Gilyard.

"Mardy is going to be straight with you all the time; the kid's got nothing to hide," Marshall said.

That's exactly why Gilyard is going to be working with the receivers Sunday and not pulling out of the event so he can just work for the scouts at his March 10 pro day at UC. Marshall, his trainer who runs the gym Ignition in the Cincinnati suburb of Blue Ash, told Gilyard to make the call as they began training.

"I told him that he could sit it out and just work the pro day. He said he didn't want to pull out of the combine, or not do some of the drills like some of the superstars," Mashall said. "He told me he wanted to compete against those guys. And he said he wanted to do it on the biggest stage. The national stage."

Gilyard has a pretty good stage manager. Marshall is the man who took UC tight end Connor Barwin and turned him into a second round defensive end here last year when he led the defensive line in five categories and finished second in the 40-yard. And Marshall is off to a good start this year.

One of his nine guys working at this combine, Pittsburgh's Dorin Dickerson, ran a 4.43-second 40-yard dash. He's one of a dozen players that have been working in Marshall's new Florida office in Naples. Another 12 are in Blue Ash with a total of six agents represented.

"(Barwin) told me, `Listen to Clif. Buy into what he says.' He knows what he's talking about and it shows," said Gilyard, who has been working in Naples.

But Marshall has a warning. Gilyard isn't going to put up astounding Barwin numbers.

"He's not going to be a top tester like that, but he's a football player," Marshall said. "He runs for the nine route, not the 40-yard dash. He knows the game and he plays hard. Testing isn't his thing, but he'll be solid. He's been focused in training and the big thing is, he wants to do it. He's a gamer."

A bad 40 (high 4.5s) could knock Gilyard out of the second round. As it is, there are those that think with his 4.5 speed he may be just a slot guy and is a No. 3 or No. 4 receiver who is a kick returner and not a No. 2 and that his slight build (just 187 pounds on nearly six feet) is going to be a problem against big cornerbacks.

But Gilyard has been battling knocks his whole life, so why stop now? You could feel the competitiveness oozing off the podium during his media session here Saturday.

"It's going to be good," he said of his 40 time and when asked what he considered good he said, "It would be better than a 4.55, I can tell you that."

Whatever drill he runs that he likes he won't do March 10 in Clifton. If he doesn't like one, he'll do it on the 10th.

There is mutual interest so the Bengals are going to be anxiously watching in both places. Gilyard has already spent a bunch of time around them so he wasn't too surprised when they said they wouldn't hook up with him this trip. But that ended one day.

"They pulled me off to the side yesterday and we had an informal meeting," Gilyard said with a smile. "That was nice of them to do."

He survived the King clarification drill, so how hard can a 4.49 be?

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