Practice competition makes perfect

Oregon's Max Unger is Mike Mayock's top-rated center. (Photo by Ben Liebenberg /

Oregon's Max Unger is Mike Mayock's top-rated center. (Ben Liebenberg /

Many of the top prospects here at the combine have one thing in common — they trained against elite teammates in college.

Several players credited facing such high-quality competition daily at practice with their development.

Oregon center Max Unger was welcomed to campus by lining up against one of the most dominant forces in college football at the time — Haloti Ngata, who is now a Pro Bowl nose tackle with the Baltimore Ravens.

Unger’s face lit up as he reflected on just how grueling it was blocking Ngata as a freshman and sophomore in practice. Unger said the experience gave him an idea of what to expect in the NFL.

“It doesn’t get any better than that, facing players like that,” Unger observed.

Herman Johnson echoed those sentiments. As an LSU offensive lineman, he had to do battle with current pros Glenn Dorsey and Marcus Spears.

Johnson, who said his nickname, “House,” was given to him by Spears, credited some of his improvements to squaring off with those players in two-a-days and working out with them during the offseason.

Virginia OT Eugene Monroe talked about the positive influence of practicing against current Rams DE Chris Long in college. Monroe maintains that Long is still the best player he has ever faced and expressed admiration for Long’s non-stop motor.

“Practicing against a guy like that forces you to get better,” Monroe said.

Florida TE Cornelius Ingram could barely contain his enthusiasm as he rattled off the future pros he practiced against in Gainesville.

“Going against them every day made me better,” Ingram said with a smile.

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