MADISON – With so many college prospects trying to make an impression at the NFL Combine, it is a rarity that one college student-athlete can create a buzz throughout the media circus that can make scouts head’s turn and general managers take notice.
While Taylor Mehlhaff’s kicking was impressive, it was performance on the bench press that created that all-important buzz.
Pumping out 13 reps at 225 pounds, Mehlhaff pumped out more reps than any other specialist mainly because he was the only one to even attempt the test.
“People were talking about the kicker doing 13 reps,” Mehlhaff said. “There was a buzz going around. People were actually talking about it, which was kind of cool. I had been working out for it and wanted to do it for the heck of it.”
Mehlhaff’s goal was 16 reps at 225 pounds but considering he was physically exhausted when he was told it was now or never for his time on the bench was still satisfactory in his eyes.
“We just got done kicking, I was dog tired and I wasn’t going to do it,” Mehlhaff said. “But one of the long snappers was getting amped up and I said screw it. I ran over there, didn’t get a chance to warm up really, and got squeezed me in after the tight ends finished.
Mehlhaff's kicking was just as noteworthy. He made 14 of 15 field goal attempts from 30 to 50 yards, and his lone miss came from 45 yards on a poor snap and poor hold.
Mehlhaff made 21 of 25 field-goal attempts (84 percent) last season and 50 of 65 (76.9 percent) in three years but felt he could really set himself a part from the four kickers at the combine with his kickoff strength.
Although he was hoping for five more yards in distance, his kickoffs were the best of the bunch.
“It was good for me to go out there and hit the ball higher and farther than everyone,” Mehlhaff said. “The ball was just jumping off my foot and I was stroking it. I was hitting great hang time to the five-yard line but I know I can hit five-yards deep in the end zone. Everyone was complimenting me on hitting the ball so high and I was like, ‘I am not even hitting it solid.’ I was not on the top of my game but I was so amped up to put on a show that it was still good to put up those numbers.”
Even a drop off in performance can be understandable with the intense amount of pressure and television theatrics that goes on at the combine.
“It was like a quiet, pressure in there,” Mehlhaff said. “You’re kicking field goals and all the scouts and special team coaches are lined up behind the goal posts. Every time you were up to do your kicks, they have the camera right behind you. Everyone wants to do well because that is your job interview.”
Mehlhaff also had an opportunity to take part in the mass interview. Entering a big room with eight teams and three tables, each athlete gets 10 minutes at each table and gets peppered with a variety of questions.
Having the opportunity to speak with all 32 teams, Mehlhaff made a lot of impressions on and off the field.
“That was one of things I got excited to go there for because I thought I could really separate myself and people can see what kind of person I am and the character I have,” he said. “I think that helps me that every team gets to see what you are all about.v
“Every team I talked to said I was there guy and if they go after a kicker, I am the one that they want. How many people go after a kicker we won’t know but to hear that is really excited, knowing that things are starting to come together and highly rated you are in people’s minds is comforting.”
Now Mehlhaff and other Badger draft set their sites on Wisconsin’s NFL Pro Timing Day Wednesday afternoon, where pro scouts will get a closer look at all the UW prospects.
While Mehlhaff is not sure what he plans to compete in - he did not do the 40-yard dash at the combine because ‘I did not want to embarrass (Darren) McFadden – but knows that the prospect and dream of becoming a NFL player is looking more and more like reality.
“It’s something that I have been thinking about for quite a long time now and the pieces are starting to fall into place,” Mehlhaff said. “My goal at the end of the combine was to be the top guy and I think I have set myself up pretty nice and in pretty good position.”