This is the third and final part of a sit-down with both Tim Settle and Wyatt Teller, two former Virginia Tech players preparing for the 2018 NFL Draft. If you are a TSL Pass Subscriber, you can read Part I and Part II here. Today’s article focuses on the pre-draft process, and what the players are doing to get ready for the NFL.
The NFL stands for the National Football League. It’s the premier football league in the world, and it’s easily the most competitive football league in the world. The competitive, cutthroat nature of the NFL has earned it the alternate moniker “Not For Long.”
That moniker is accurate. The average NFL career is roughly three years (3.3 to be exact), and the chances of a player making significant money in their career drops as a player drops in the draft. Where you are drafted matters, which is why the pre-draft process is so important. Former Virginia Tech stars Tim Settle and Wyatt Teller are well aware of the importance of this time period before the 2018 NFL Draft, and are doing their best to take advantage of it.
The biggest decision the two have had to make is selecting an agent. Both Settle and Teller signed with Andy Ross and Select Sports Group, an agency that represents players like Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson and New England Patriots receiver Chris Hogan.
“With Andy, it wasn’t just ‘What can I do for you,’ it was, ‘How hard are you going to work to get to that point where you need to be,’” Teller said. “He was like, ‘I’m going to put you around the right people. If it’s going to bring you up one spot, one draft spot, it’s all worth it.’ To me, that was just like — that’s different.”
Signing with Ross was easier due to Ross’ roots. Ross is a 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, where he wrestled for the Hokies. Ross has represented other Hokies as well, including offensive linemen Duane Brown and Ed Wang. For Ross, helping Teller and Settle achieve success is as much about making money as it is taking care of fellow Hokies.
“Both Tim and Wyatt, and I’ve heard this from numerous people that knew them and are around the Virginia Tech program, they have the traits of hard work, integrity, the leadership skills,” Ross said. “At the end of the day, everybody, when they come out, no matter how long they’ve been in school, there’s always going to be guys between 20 and 23 years old, and it ain’t changing.”
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Ross sees two potential NFL players in Teller and Settle. Each player brings his own assets to the table, and it’s Ross’ job to help market those assets. For Teller, Ross sees a tough and gritty offensive lineman that can carve out a long-term role in the NFL.
“He’s got athletic ability, so he can play in a zone scheme. He’s not a guy that’s going to crush your SPARQ rating,” Ross said. “So I’ve had a number of offensive linemen in my career who did really, really well in the SPARQ rating, like an Ali Marpet. So a lot of the teams play a power scheme, a lot of the teams play a zone scheme, and there’s a handful of teams that play a power with a touch of zone scheme in it. So in Wyatt’s case, when you watch him play, he can play a power scheme because once he locks onto you, he’s so strong from the elbow to the wrist that he’s got these vice grips for hands. Once he locks on, you’re not getting away from him. And that’s why he’s so good in the power-run game. But he has enough athletic ability that he can get to that linebacker if you need him to get outside and make that block to spring the running back.
“Where he struggles a little bit is, if you pull him and get him all the way outside and he has to deal with a 180-pound corner that’s quick and agile, or a safety, he’s going to have a little bit more trouble with that because of the athletic ability he has. It’s good, but there’s some guys that just might be a little more nimble. And that’s not a negative, that’s just knowing who you are as a player. He works very, very hard, but the gifts that God gave you, know what those gifts are, extenuate those gifts and sell them as a huge positive. For Wyatt, knowing who he is helps target a little bit better, as it relates to the different teams.”
In Tim Settle, Ross sees something special. Sure, Tim is aiming to be just the third redshirt sophomore defensive tackle to be drafted since 2012, but Ross believes Settle’s raw ability is an asset to NFL teams.
“Tim’s a little bit different because with him being younger, you see this raw, explosive power that he has,” Ross said. “You see this body that’s going to get a lot stronger in the next 2-3 years. So it’s really exciting to see where Tim might potentially be in three years. Because if he has the right people around him, the right coaching, the right development, he could be really, really good. You saw a lot of flashes of it this year, and that’s what the whole NFL process is about, the draft process, it’s about projection. So for Tim, because of his athletic ability and what he can do already, he’s pretty amazing.”
Ross takes a very hands-on approach with his clients who are preparing for the draft. Instead of dumping them at a training facility and letting them work, Ross spends extra time and money on getting his clients the right type of work and coaching.
“My whole mentality my entire career has always been every player is different,” Ross said. “I think a mistake a lot of agents and agencies do, because training has become so popular, that’s it’s easier for them to just say, ‘Hey, we have a relationship with ‘X’ facility, that’s where you should go, that’s where we send our guys,’ and they send them all there. Two years ago, I had five guys in the draft and all five of them were training in a different facility. It’s a lot more work and a lot more travel, but for me, I look at it and say it’s very, very important that you customize everything, you find the deficiencies in the players, because you have a three-month window to overcome a lot of these deficiencies.”
For Settle and Teller, Ross brought in Jay Caldwell, a “specialized functional movement” coach who lives and works in New Jersey. Caldwell has worked with several NFL players, including former New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck, current Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive lineman Ali Marpet and current Atlanta Falcons defensive end Courtney Upshaw.
Caldwell’s coaching aims at helping players perfect certain movements and techniques, something often overlooked in professional sports.
“So what happens is, you can take basketball movements, football movements, wrestling movements, boxing movements, all that stuff, and equate it to the movements of proper body structure and posture on the football field,” Caldwell said. “What happens is a lot of times, guys are just out there playing football, but they’re not paying attention or they’re not cognizant of the fact that their body is out of posture, so they can’t make a tackle. They don’t know how to disengage, so they tear a labrum. There’s a lot of different functionality deficiencies in the sport, which is why I have a job.”
Caldwell flew into town to work with both Teller and Settle, who are training at the Chip Smith Performance Center in Atlanta, Ga. Caldwell spent his time working with them on technique and leverage training, as well as helping the two to develop a professional mindset.
“My impressions were that they were athletic, strong young men,” Caldwell said. “I could see them both playing in the league. When you’re talking about Wyatt, you’re talking about a very intelligent young man who has a very high football IQ. When you’re talking about Tim, you’re talking about a gentleman that you’re not going to walk around and see in another 5-10 years. That young man has the opportunity to probably wind up with four contracts and really perform at a high level for quite a long time.”
Tim Settle has always been a big, athletic player, but his stamina has been an issue throughout his career. Caldwell tackled that as well in his training.
“From Tim’s standpoint, it was him moving at a very fast pace for a longer time frame,” Caldwell said. “Tim usually would kind of be quick and explosive for like a step, step-and-a-half. But now, I wanted to make sure he understood he had more athleticism than he even thought.”
While working with Settle, Caldwell noticed a simple problem. When Settle would engage at the line of scrimmage, he was blinking. That split-second blink kept Tim from being aware of his surroundings, and kept him from being able to disengage from blocks efficiently.
“Working with Jay, technique and stuff like that,” Settle said. “Just seeing, having my hands up, just being able to see everything. I learned that I blink a lot. At the point of attack, I’ll blink my eyes. You can’t do that. That’s the first thing he helped me fix, on the first day I worked with him.”
“I had to teach him a couple of really strong disengagement tactics,” Caldwell said. “Those disengagement tactics performed very well for him, and that gives him some mental acceptance to the training. So as I’m training them, I’m doing things that I know in their mind, because I’m speaking to them at this point, and I’m asking them questions.”
As Caldwell worked with Teller, his goal was to boost his confidence. Caldwell noticed that Teller performs better when he’s confident about his position, and that he did his best to make Teller feel powerful and superior.
“Then I put Wyatt in what are called football-simulated positions. That’s when he performed at his best,” Caldwell said. “His IQ is so high and he understands, ‘Oh my God, he’s right. I always miss this block, all the time.’ This is why you miss the block, you take the wrong angle. Here’s how you get the right angle. Those are the things that connect with the player.
“That’s coaching, that’s connecting. That’s understanding a kid, and that’s really being able to put him in a position to say, ‘Hey, we know where you are.’ You’ll see a lot of that in corporate America, where your numbers are down and they come in your office like, ‘Dude, what’s going on? Your numbers man, get it together.’ Then there will be the guy that comes in and says, ‘Hey, are you okay? Is anything going on? Do you need any help with anything? What can I do for you?’ That leader, he’s going to get the best out of Wyatt.”
“It was just like getting my hands and feet to work together,” Teller said. “But also apart. At times, you need your feet to go fast, and you need your hands to go slow. Its being able to focus on each muscle and each position I need to be in, and then using that.”
With Caldwell back in New Jersey, the plan is for him to keep in touch with Settle and Teller on a daily basis, hitting on key points they worked on while in Atlanta.
“I’m going to stay in communication with them,” Caldwell said. “I’ve spoken with them a few times since I’ve been gone, to be sure that their reiteration and focal points are there. We will be doing FaceTime, we will be doing video chat. For Wyatt especially, to bring his helmet back to his room with him while he’s at the Senior Bowl. Because one thing is, whenever you’re training, as soon as you put that helmet on you forget everything you learned, and you go back to football. That’s one huge advantage that not a lot of people realize that’s going to be the end-all, be-all when it comes to anything that is newly learned. Put the helmet on, and drill it with the helmet on. Otherwise, you’re not going to do it. The vision changes everything from inside the helmet.”
While Ross has made sure to give both Settle and Teller the proper individual coaching and attention, he has also arranged for Settle to have a mentor throughout the process. Tim Settle is one of the youngest players in the draft, so having a veteran around would help him keep his head in a good place.
Enter Ziggy Hood, defensive tackle for the Washington Redskins. Hood, who is also represented by Ross and Select Sports Group, just wrapped up his ninth season in the NFL. Hood was a first-round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers, and has started 27 games over the last two seasons in Washington.
Hood and his wife hosted Settle and his father for dinner after Settle declared for the draft, and the two have stayed in close contact since.
“For one, he’s a young guy that definitely has a lot of potential that he has yet to see in himself or begin to scratch the surface,” Hood said. “The kid is 6-3, 6-4 and maybe 330 (pounds). I had a chance to sit down to dinner with him, me and my wife, I met him and his father, Andy and his wife were there as well. We had a good sit-down dinner and everybody just talked. We really didn’t discuss too much about football, because there’s more to life than just X’s and O’s and running and hitting. I had the chance to connect, really just on a man-to-man level with him.”
Hood said that young guys like Settle have to learn how to be consistent players in the NFL. It’s a challenge every rookie faces when they break into the league.
“You may have a good week, you may have a good two or three weeks, but can you do it for four weeks? Five weeks? Six weeks? Can you really stay on top of it,” Hood said. “Then at some point, you plateau, and you need to do something to switch it up or change it up. I’m not saying fall back or scale back, but find something to push through and break new barriers.”
Hood, who also works out each offseason at the Chip Smith Performance Center, said that with Ross, Caldwell and Chip Smith himself helping Settle prepare for the draft, he’s in good hands.
“My number one thing is, I will be in shape by the time I leave,” Hood said. “I mean, I’ll be in the best, tip-top shape. As far as training, I did well at the Combine and at pro day. My 40 was low, my bench press went up, my agility — everything was where it needed to be, for a guy my size.”
Now, it’s about enjoying the grind. Teller is currently in Mobile, Ala. at the Senior Bowl, and is hoping to turn some heads there. Settle and Teller have until Feb. 27, the start of the NFL Combine, to get in the best shape they possibly can. After the combine, the two will prepare for Virginia Tech’s Pro Day in March. Then the two will interview, visit and work out for NFL teams, and hope they did enough to hear their name called during the 2018 NFL Draft.
It’ll be a long, tough process. But at least Settle and Teller have each other.
“I’ve been working with Wyatt since I’ve been in college,” Settle said. “When I saw Wyatt, I gave him the biggest hug, man. I told him, ‘Man, I haven’t seen you in six weeks,’ but it’s only been three.
“I feel like we’re the same player, just different positions. That dog, that quiet dog. We’re not the type of person to talk trash after we make a play. We make the play, and then go back. We’re not the type of person that argues with another lineman. Silent assassins. We play similar, just different sides of the ball. You can always depend on Wyatt. You can depend on me.”
While the two work harder than they’ve ever worked, they’ll need to enjoy the process. That’s another thing that Hood recommends to younger players — love the grind.
“Enjoy the hard work,” Hood said. “After it’s said and done, after you receive a phone call, you’ll be able to reflect and understand what it took to get you there. You understand all of the hard work, the sacrifice, the struggling you had to do, the moment where you were out by yourself and had to perform in front of all these coaches, and that’s going to be nerve-wracking. You don’t really enjoy the process as it’s going on, because you’re always moving and talking to people, and sometimes, it can get overwhelming. If you don’t sit back and reflect, slow down and remember A, B and C, how you got there, why you got there, what you could have done better, and now what to look forward to, it will bother you for years.”
And while the two enjoy the process, they’ll continue dreaming of what could be.
“I’m just excited to start this whole other book,” Settle said. “It’s a whole new book, and it’s going to be a long book. This is the first chapter, the first page. The next chapter will probably be like Pro Day or something like that. But this training, getting in there and getting to where I’m trying to be, then I can start a new chapter.”