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Northwestern vs. Nebraska, 11/4/17

Nebraska defensive back Joshua Kalu (46) intercepts a first-quarter Northwestern pass at Memorial Stadium in November.

Joshua Kalu and Chris Jones now can take their friendly workout competitions to the NFL Scouting Combine.

The former Nebraska defensive backs are among five ex-Huskers to receive official invitations to the Feb. 27-March 5 gathering in Indianapolis — a critical element in the pre-draft process.

"We always competed throughout college," Kalu said recently from Dallas, where he's training full time at the Michael Johnson Performance Center, joined by Jones and De'Mornay Pierson-El. "Even when we didn't tell each other we were competing against each other, we were competing against each other. We just came here and thought we'd get the most out of it by working together."

The other former Nebraska players to land combine invites are quarterback Tanner Lee, place-kicker Drew Brown and offensive lineman Nick Gates.

Lee played just one season at NU, deciding to take his NFL shot after Mike Riley was fired as Husker head coach and replaced Dec. 2 by Scott Frost. Gates announced last month that he also would forgo a final year in Lincoln and declare for the draft as a junior.

In Matt Miller's annual mock draft on bleacherreport.com, Gates was projected as a fifth-round pick by the Seattle Seahawks, and Lee as the final pick of the seven-round affair, also by Seattle.

The NFL on Tuesday announced that 326 players will work out and meet with teams in Indianapolis as the pre-draft process begins to heat up ahead of the April 26-28 draft in Dallas.

Jones and Kalu both were at all-star games last month — Kalu at the East-West Shrine Game and Jones at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.

Widely regarded as the Nebraska defense's best overall player entering the 2017 season, Jones suffered a knee injury last summer and missed the first five games of his senior season. The 6-foot, 195-pound cornerback was limited to seven tackles and one pass breakup after recording a combined five interceptions and 15 pass breakups during his sophomore and junior years.

Although the 6-1, 195-pound Kalu missed three games early this past season with a hamstring injury, he ended up third on the team in tackles with 47 while intercepting two passes, breaking up six others and forcing a fumble. He played safety as a senior after spending his first three seasons in the program as a corner.

He'll play whatever an NFL team asks of him.

"I'm going to try to play corner, safety, nickel, gunner, jammer, kickoff — whatever they want me to play," Kalu said.

"Honest to God, I do feel like I'm going to get drafted," he said. "A lot of guys will tell you that, but I honestly feel it. And I enjoy the doubt that goes with it. It drives me to go harder in my workouts, and drives me to know what results I have to put up for the combine. It really does motivate me."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraSip.

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Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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