Remembering NFL combine viral stars, how their careers panned out


The 2024 NFL combine begins Tuesday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Participation in the combine is by invitation only. The NFL has invited 321 prospects to run through a variety of evaluations — including on-field workouts — in front of general managers, coaches and scouts. Individual drills begin on Thursday at 3 p.m. EST with the defensive linemen and linebackers.

Through the years, standout performances at the combine have led to increased buzz and rising stocks heading into draft day.

Some outings confirm the potential that is already known by draft experts. But others can dramatically impact the beginning of a rookie’s career.

Here’s a look back at some viral NFL combine stars and where they are now.

Chris Johnson, 2008

The running back from the East Carolina Pirates turned heads during his combine performance.

He ran a then-record 4.24 seconds in the 40-yard dash and also had top scores among running backs in the broad jump and vertical leap. Johnson’s iconic run served as the pantheon for the 40-yard dash for nearly a decade.

The Tennessee Titans selected him with their 24th overall pick. Johnson lived up to the hype, recording six straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons, including 2,006 yards in 2009 — seventh most all-time for an individual season. He also had an NFL-record 2,509 scrimmage yards that season.

Through a 10-year career, Johnson made the Pro Bowl three times and All-Pro once. He retired in 2018. Johnson’s 40-yard dash remains one of the most viral in NFL combine history, but nine years later, a wide receiver topped it.

John Ross, 2017

The Washington Huskies wide receiver made it look casual during his record-breaking 40-yard dash. He ran it in 4.22 seconds, shocking the NFL Network commentators and fans on social media.

Johnson tweeted three eye emojis after the dash.

Ross didn’t complete the rest of the drills due to sore calves suffered during the run, but it didn’t impact his stock too much — the Cincinnati Bengals selected him with the No. 9 overall pick.

He struggled in his rookie season, appearing in only three games with two total targets. His lone rushing attempt went 12 yards but ended in a fumble.

Ross followed a 2018 season where he had seven receiving touchdowns with a career-high 509 receiving yards in 2019. Out of the league after the 2021 season, Ross signed with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2023, but he retired in July of that year.

Byron Jones, 2015

Talk about jumping high — Jones did it both literally and figuratively during the 2015 draft process.

The UConn Huskies cornerback recorded a broad jump of 12 feet, 3 inches, surpassing the combine record by 8 inches and the world record by 1 inch. He also had a vertical jump of 44 feet, 5 inches, just half an inch shy of the best combine mark since 2006.

Predictably, Jones’ outing moved him high up the draft. Originally slated as the 25th-best cornerback by, he was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys with the 27th pick. He was the fourth corner to be taken off the board.

Jones earned a Pro Bowl and AP All-Pro second-team appearance in 2018 with the Cowboys. The Miami Dolphins released him last March.

Dontari Poe, 2012

At 346 pounds heading into the 2012 combine, the Memphis Tigers defensive lineman put together a performance deemed “epic” by then-ESPN analyst Todd McShay.

Poe ran the 40-yard dash in 4.98 seconds and had 44 reps on the 225-pound bench press, 16 above the average for defensive tackles in the four previous combines. His display caught the attention of President Barack Obama.

“They just had the combine and they were talking about some guy who’s like 340 and runs a 4.8 and has a 3-foot vertical,” Obama said on a 2012 episode of “The Bill Simmons Podcast.” “I don’t know what you do if a guy like that hits you.”

Poe was projected in the middle of the first round, but the Chiefs ended up selecting him at No. 11 after the pre-draft process. Poe had two Pro Bowl appearances across nine seasons. The Cowboys released him in 2020.

A top USC Trojans offensive lineman, Vorhees suffered a torn ACL in the midst of a shuttle drill, hindering his ability to participate in the rest of the combine.

But he returned the next day, convincing the team doctor to let him compete in the bench press. He missed breakfast because he had a meeting with a doctor, so Vorhees said all he ate was a bag of Fritos before the lift.

Vorhees ended up with a 2023 combine high of 38 reps with one healthy knee, going viral on social media. It caught the attention of three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt.

The Baltimore Ravens selected him in the seventh round. He missed the entire 2023 season with the ACL injury.

Source : ESPN