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Air Force's Jalen Robinette deals with nerves as he prepares for the NFL Combine

February 27, 2017 Updated: February 28, 2017 at 8:34 am
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In this Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, photograph, Air Force wide receiver Jalen Robinette takes part in a drill to prepare for the NFL Combine at a workout facility in Centennial, Colo. Robinette continues to take classes at the academy to become an officer in the Air Force while preparing for a career on the gridiron as an NFL wide receiver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The nervous version of Jalen Robinette sounds and looks an awful lot like the confident version.

Air Force's NFL Combine-bound wide receiver said he was nervous, but projected not a bit of uncertainty as he faced a group of reporters on Monday less than 24 hours before he was to leave for Indianapolis and the ultimate job interview.

"How I think of it, if you're not nervous then you don't want it enough," the 6-foot-3, 220-pound senior said. "So it's just a combination of a lot of different emotions. Excitement, energy. I'm just ready to go out there and showcase what I've been working on."

Robinette - the Falcons' all-time leading receiver - followed a breakout performance at the East-West Shrine Game in January with the first-ever appearance for an Air Force player at the Senior Bowl the next week. He has since split his days between morning classes at the academy and afternoons in Denver training at Landow Performance with more than two dozen college prospects - including Stanford great Christian McCaffrey and Fountain-Fort Carson graduate Kevin Davis, the Colorado State linebacker who will also be attending the Combine.

"It's a lot of gas money, for sure," Robinette said. "The schedule's been pretty rigorous, but I'm used to that."

Robinette has focused on speed training in Denver, as that will likely be the biggest factor in determining if he's a high-round pick or further down in April's NFL Draft. The workouts have included resistance training, perfecting the form over the first 10-20 yards of a sprint and finding that delicate balance of running hard yet relaxed.

That's the trick of this whole process.

Robinette clearly wants this NFL opportunity badly, but he also wants to remain calm enough to be himself and project the maturity, manners and intelligence that many will likely expect from a soon-to-be graduate of a service academy. That was easy enough when talking to NFL scouts at the all-star games last month, but the Combine will pair him with coaches and general managers for lines of questioning that can sometimes veer to the bizarre.

"I don't think this will be the case with him, but sometimes guys press and feel they need to overly impress," said Falcons coach Troy Calhoun, a former NFL assistant. "I think the key is settle in and do what you do best."

Not all of this upcoming process has Robinette nervous. The first few days will include physical exams and measurements and, at some point, the intelligence-testing Wonderlic exam.

"I feel like I'll do well on it with the education I have," Robinette said.

On Saturday, Robinette will be on the field to perform speed and strength tests and run through football workouts. He knows NFL teams will be checking the clock, but because of his background in an option offense that rarely threw the ball he'll also be scrutinized in the nuances of playing receiver more closely than others.

"I think what the scouts are really ready to see is just me being showcased more in a pass-heavy offense," he said. "It's really just proving that I'm not as raw as they think I am."

There's a lot to consider and only a few days to make this go right at the event that can make or break a player's draft position - and first payday.

That's a nerve-wracking proposition. But even if Robinette is feeling the stress, nobody is likely to know it.

"I feel fast. I feel confident," he said. "When it comes to that day on Saturday, we'll see."

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