Iowa vs. Nebraska, 11.29.13

Nebraska offensive linesman Jeremiah Sirles (71) gets a bear hug from coach Bo Pelini as the Husker seniors are introduced at Memorial Stadium on Friday, Nov. 29, 2013.

One day not so long ago, Jeremiah Sirles was a freshman watching his elder Huskers see how many times they could lift 225 pounds and how fast they could run 40 yards.

Isn't it something how time sneaks along, until suddenly it is your turn, your Pro Day, your big job interview?

"You never think about, 'Oh, that's going to be me one day,'" Sirles said. "Then all of a sudden you're like, 'Holy cow, I'm here.'"

Nebraska's Pro Day is here. On Thursday, Sirles will be joined by former teammates such as Taylor Martinez, Ciante Evans, Brent Qvale, Jason Ankrah and the combine crew of Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Quincy Enuwna and Spencer Long.

They'll all partake in one of the biggest workouts of their lives, something Sirles has been training for ever since the Gator Bowl.

The offensive tackle traveled back to his home state of Colorado for the past month with the sole purpose of preparing just for this day.

Pressure, sure. But Sirles was relaxed as he gave the Journal Star insight into the thoughts of a prospect about to take on a challenge that will help decide if his dreams come true.

"The joke has been that I'm 22-year-old unemployed guy living out of my parents' basement. That's what my parents keep telling everyone. It's kind of a running joke. But it's been great to just get away and just be able to focus solely on training. I get up and work out six days a week."

How is training for the Pro Day different than training for the season?

"It's completely different. When you're training for football, you're doing football-specific things. You're working on getting big and strong and moving people. When you're training for the combine stuff, you're literally training for five drills and you just do it on repeat. When have I ever said, 'OK, let's learn how to get in a track runner's stance and run 40 yards as fast as possible?' Being 300 pounds-plus, that's not something you're used to doing.

"I think it's harder for some of the linemen because you're training your body to do some things it normally doesn't do. One of the hardest things for me is my trainer keeps telling me, 'Just try standing with your feet straight.' Because for so long, I'd stand with my feet pivoted outward because you're always on your instep as an offensive lineman. So it just became a habit for me to stand like that. It's things like that you don't think about. Like your arm action. You've got to train like you're a track runner. You've got to train to move like you're 250 pounds and you're really 300-plus pounds.

"I remember thinking about, how, 'Wow, it's the biggest job interview of your life.' Because there will be more job interviews after this, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that is never going to come back. … That's why guys spend a whole month or more just focusing on how to do four or five drills."

How does someone control their nerves when getting ready for such a pressure-packed day?

"It's kind of like going into a game where you've got to have that controlled rage. With football, you can go balls-to-the-wall and make a mistake and still hit someone and be OK. But you've got to make sure you're good on your steps with this. You've got to make sure you're starting the same way every time. Everything you've done for the last month, you've got to make sure you do it over and over again, so when you get to that point in time, you're not like, 'Oh, maybe I should change this.'

"I think that's the biggest thing for me is I can't let myself get so caught up in the moment, but one thing at a time. So I need to compartmentalize each single drill, and then once you do your drill good or bad, just put it away, and go on to the next play, so to speak."

How much did you watch the combine? In particular, how close attention did you pay to the linemen?

"Yeah, I did. And it's a deep draft for linemen this year. There's a lot of talented guys out there and I'm hoping with the times that I've been able to put up, and the time I hope to put up at Pro Day, that I'll be able to put myself right in the mix of those top 50 guys that were at the combine. Then all I can do is hope for the best. All I can do is be consistent and then hopefully what I put on film, teams like what they see."

Some guys pay a lot of attention to what "experts" are projecting. Some guys try to tune it out. Which type of guy are you?

"I've watched the draft since I was a little kid. And all these so-called draft experts, I don't think any of them have ever been more than 25 percent right. You just never know. It all comes down to what the team needs. If you're not drafted in the first three rounds, let's be honest, you're going to be fighting for a spot. Those fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh round, and free agents, you're clawing every single day, you're fighting every single day to take someone's job.

"So I don't really pay attention to projections or anything like that. By training hard and playing for Nebraska for 50-some games, I just want to give myself the opportunity to get into a camp. And then from there, it's up to me. It doesn't matter where you were drafted. Once you step in between those white lines, it comes down to how well you can execute your job as a football player."

Final question: Is Chris Johnson's combine-record 40 time in jeopardy?

"Yeah, I think his record is pretty safe. Well, maybe … nah, I think it's pretty safe."

​Reach Brian Christopherson at bchristopherson@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. Follow him on Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.


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