Mike Neal got to "sleep in" on Monday; his wake-up call wasn't until about 7:30 a.m.
He spent the weekend waking up between 4:30 and 5:30 a.m. and going to sleep around midnight. However, it didn't bother him a bit. It was all part of the most important job interview he'll ever have.
The Merrillville and Purdue graduate did everything he could to impress NFL scouts with his physical abilities in workouts and charm them with his intelligence during interviews at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
"I'm doing pretty good, everything's going good, I honestly can't complain," Neal said Sunday night. "It's an exciting process."
With impressive quickness and strength as well as standout moments in both the East-West Shrine Game and Senior Bowl, the question isn't if he'll get drafted; it's how high he'll go.
"If I didn't belong down here, I wouldn't be here, to be honest," Neal said. "I believe I'm the best, I wouldn't short-change myself at all. I'm just as good (as everyone else), if not better, in my opinion."
Monday was Neal's final day of rigorous workouts and the 6-foot-4 defensive tackle planned to return immediately to Tampa, Fla., where he's been working out since walking across the stage to receive his diploma at Elliott Hall of Music in West Lafayette in December. First, though, he ran a 4.86-second 40-yard dash on Tuesday, in addition to multiple agility drills and leaping tests.
"The combine is about putting up numbers and impressing teams and improving your draft stock," said Neal, who'll have another chance to show off at Purdue's pro day on March 12.
On Sunday Neal performed the all-important bench press. He lifted 225 pounds off his chest 33 times, but officials said he didn't lock his elbows during the first two reps, so it went in the books as 31 presses, still tied for 10th among more than 65 defensive linemen. On Friday Neal weighed in at 294, his arms were measured at 33 1/2 inches each and his hands were 10 1/4 inches long.
At his test day at Purdue earlier this year Neal benched 510 pounds, squatted 615 and power-cleaned 385.
While Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh and Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy are in everybody's top five overall, Neal is expected to be taken in the top 15 defensive tackles and top 150 players overall, which makes him about a fourth-round prospect.
Purdue product Alex Magee, a third-round pick by the Chiefs in last year's draft, is Neal's best friend. He and former Bears and Patriots standout Rosevelt Colvin, another Purdue product, have been Neal's closest counsel. Magee recommended his Fort Wayne-based agent, Roosevelt Barnes, whose sports agency Maximum Sports has a huge compound in Tampa.
"They can give you as much advice as you can, but there's no way to prepare for (the process)," Neal said. "You're not going to get the true feeling of it until you go through it.
"I've just been asking God for His wisdom and knowledge and going about it like that."
2010 NFL Draft
Round 1: 6:30 p.m., Thursday, April 22
Rounds 2-3: 5:30 p.m., Friday, April 23
Rounds 4-7: 9 a.m., Saturday, April 24