Noah Spence, like others before him, can produce on the football field but has teams wary because of off-field problems. He needs to impress at the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine to enter the top-10.
Noah Spence is a top-10 talent, but is he a top-10 professional?
As teams interview, evaluate, and measure every intricate detail of the young 20-something NFL hopefuls this weekend, it becomes harder and harder for players who are “recovering” from personal problems to emerge as studs. In order to really stand out, they need to show progress as a person as well as progress on the track, weight room, and in drills.
For a guy like Noah Spence, banned from the Big 10 and forced to finish his collegiate career at Eastern Kentucky, this weekend is incredibly important.
We all know that Spence can utterly dominate on the football field. He was quality before he came to Eastern Kentucky, decimated his opponents at the lower level of competition, and had a Senior Bowl performance that elicited praise from every direction.
But what can he bring to teams as a professional? Can he be a leader? Can he keep his personal problems in check? Drug problems scare a lot of teams away and, like Randy Gregory from the 2015 first round, can return and force later suspensions at the NFL level.
Spence will have to prove he’s moved on from these problems if he hopes to be drafted even remotely near where his physical talent warrants. He’s a top-10 player, now he has to show he can be a top-10 professional…and that’s a lot harder to do in interview after interview after interview than it may appear at first glance. As outlined by CBS Sports and provided by former Jacksonville Jaguars defensive lineman Austen Lane, players are asked ridiculous questions every year and it can be difficult coming out of the entire process knowing you’ve truly impressed every team you’ve talked to.
As noted by ESPN’s Mike DiRocco, Noah Spence doesn’t think that teams should be wary of him – specifically the Jaguars. But with past history with players like Justin Blackmon and the current ongoing Johnny Manziel saga, teams like the Jaguars may be wise to simply let Spence fall to another team to deal with.
Spence has stated that he took ecstasy because he wanted to have a good time while going out to party. It wasn’t because he was dependent upon it.
That’s a big red flag to me. Yes, Spence, like his peers, are young men who will make mistakes. But the ascension to the NFL is a rapid change from being a young man who can make mistakes like taking ecstasy to go out and party to being a professional who is expected to put in work each and every night, expected to put the team first before boneheaded mistakes while going out.
Shrugging off questions of reliance on drugs is drastically different from having the appropriate mindset to be a professional in the NFL. Players who put in the work routinely outperform players who rely on their physical ability and natural instincts. After year dominating lower level competition at Eastern Kentucky and the red flag of taking drugs just to party, I think Spence is not really understanding the gravity of his situation.
If Noah Spence is serious about being a top-10 selection, he needs to get serious about being a professional. He needs to prove he is serious about bringing professionalism to the building each day, to the weight room, to the football field. He needs to live and breathe football.
There isn’t any room for partying for many, many players at the NFL level. There’s even less room for partying for players who have mistakes like Spence has before. This weekend is his chance to prove he can get past that. The only person who can truly do that is Spence. He may not think he’s a risk, but he needs to prove that to NFL teams.
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Becoming a professional starts this weekend for Spence and that boils down to framing his past indiscretions. He has to start being a professional earlier than his peers and he’ll have to really prove it if he wants to be a top-10 selection.