Every spring, there are more than 200 college football players selected in the seven rounds of the NFL Draft and there are dozens of others signed as undrafted free agents.
Idaho seldom, if ever, hear an alumnus’ name called on draft day, but there are a few players preparing to hopefully have their names called for the first time since 2012. Among those names are former Idaho defensive end Maxx Forde and wide receiver Joshua McCain. Both players spent most of the last few months at athletic training facilities in preparation for the Idaho Pro Day March 12.
Forde, a four-year player along the defensive line for Idaho, has spent his time at EXOS (formerly Athletes Performance) this winter in Arizona. He spent time there last summer as well. Forde has taken advantage of some of the NFL players who work out there during the offseason, including former Miami Dolphin and current Buffalo Bill, Richie Incognito.
“You see these guys on TV and you don’t think they’re super human or anything like that,” Forde said. “But that is taking nothing away from them. There are some great athletes that work out here.”
McCain has also been hard at work at Sparta Performance Science in Menlo Park, California.
Neither player received an invite to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis from February 17-23, but the former Vandals said they are going to use the snub as motivation.
“I am not going to lie, it was a little tough to watch,” Forde said. “I believe in myself as a player and I could’ve been there, but I wasn’t invited and I am not going to throw myself a pity party. But I definitely feel like I was good enough to be there, so there’s definitely a little bit of a chip on my shoulder now.”
Forde said he watched some of the coverage on TV, albeit a little reluctantly. A few of the guys he’s been training with were there, so he wanted to support them, he said.
McCain didn’t get a chance to watch much, besides a few highlight packages, because of his training. McCain said he would have been honored to be invited, but he isn’t going to let it get him down.
“I just am going to use that as motivation,” McCain said. “Just looking at it I could be one of the top five or 10 receivers.”
Along with the training at EXOS, Forde has another resource. His father Brian Forde played football at Washington State and had a career in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints, his favorite NFL team.
His father’s NFL pedigree doesn’t mean Maxx grew up with a helmet and shoulder pads. He wasn’t allowed to play organized football until he was in the seventh grade, his mother Tracey said.
Despite growing up as a Saints fan, Maxx said his favorite player is JJ Watt, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
Even though he excelled in football, Maxx played a variety of sports growing up, especially before he was allowed to play football.
“Sports was always a big part of our home,” Brian said. “Football was one of those sports that I didn’t want to push that on Maxx. While a lot of other sports are different, practices are a drag. There is very little that is fun about them.”
For Maxx, he was always a defensive lineman throughout his college career. But for McCain, he wasn’t always a receiver. Before last spring, he had always played quarterback except for one play during his high school all-star game.
“Sometimes I think about it,” McCain said of switching positions. “But really I just love football and playing receiver gave me a great year, and I can’t think about what-ifs. It was a great experience.”
The switch to receiver was natural for McCain. He caught 76 passes for 1,162 yards, scored nine touchdowns and was named to the All-Sunbelt team after his senior season.
While making the transition, he watched a lot of different receivers to pick up on little things they did well to incorporate into his game, he said. He is a student of the game and doing things like this help him get better.
Growing up in the Bay Area, McCain was an Oakland Raiders fan, but he also rooted for the Washington Redskins. To play for either team would be a dream come true, he said.
Should the NFL not work, however, McCain said he has put some thought into finding other ways to continue to play.
“I love the game of football,” McCain said. “So, I mean if the NFL doesn’t work out, I would love to play in the Canadian League or even the Arena league. Obviously, the NFL is my love and my passion.”
For Maxx, the emphasis his parents put on academics when he was growing up helped tremendously, Tracey said. The education he got in the classroom along with his cerebral personality will help him make the transition, she said.
“This is how these guys put food on the table, shelter for their families and clothes on their families’ backs,” Brian said of professional football. “Up until now, it has pretty much been a game for him. The next time he puts on shoulder pads, it’s the real deal.”
The 2015 NFL Draft goes from Thursday April 30 to May 2 and will be simulcast on ESPN and the NFL Network.
Joshua Gamez can be reached at email@example.com