Rainy USC pro day: Injured Andrew Vorhees’ reflects on viral combine moment
Ryan Kartje (LA Times) — The doctor delivered the news early that morning, just before his second day of testing was set to start at the NFL scouting combine. Andrew Vorhees was standing in the Colts locker room in Indianapolis, literally on the doorstep of his NFL dream, when he got word. The anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee was torn. Everything about the start of his NFL career had been suddenly called into question.
When he’d tweaked his knee during drills the day before, Vorhees hadn’t thought much of it, he said. He’d barely felt any pain.
Now, the prognosis landed like a gut punch for USC’s All-American guard, who was unable to run Tuesday at the school’s pro day.
“Definitely devastating,” Vorhees said, “but life is all about how you respond to the events that are happening.”
His response that day would turn him into an unexpected viral video sensation of this draft process, garnering attention from every corner of the football community and beyond. But at the time, Vorhees just tried to focus on what was in front of him. His bench press was two hours away.
“There was no doubt in my mind I was going to go bench,” Vorhees said. “I had to get clearance from the doctor first, but I was like, ‘Hey, look, my knee is hurt, I’m still healthy everywhere else, right?’ ”
When the time came, Vorhees hobbled over on crutches, his leg in an air cast. He couldn’t even plant the leg as he laid back on the bench, gripping the bar with both hands.
But Vorhees did one rep at 225 pounds, then another, then another. He’d do 38 before he finally couldn’t manage any more.
It was the most reps any prospect would manage all week at the combine.
Vorhees continues to be stunned by the outpouring since. He still hasn’t responded to all the texts he received after the bench press video went viral.
“One of the coolest things,” Vorhees said, “was just so many kids reaching out to me saying how inspiring I am to them.”
A long recovery still awaits. Vorhees is scheduled to have surgery on his knee next week. After that, Vorhees said, he “should be cleared sometime in the fall.”
How that timeline might alter the All-American’s draft position remains uncertain. Before the injury, he was expected to be picked somewhere in the first three rounds.
Amid all the positive vibes from his viral bench press, Vorhees has tried not to think too much about where exactly he’s picked in the draft next month. He’s focused instead on his response.
“I try to stay away from that,” Vorhees said. “Just one less thing to put in your mind and worry about.”
Vorhees isn’t the only USC lineman sidelined at the start of his NFL career. Center Brett Neilon, who started alongside Vorhees the last three seasons, suffered a torn Achilles tendon during USC’s Pac-12 title loss to Utah.
Neilon said Tuesday he was three months into an eight- to 10-month recovery process, but assured he would be healthy around the start of training camp.
His late-season injury makes it unlikely he’ll be drafted, but Neilon said he expects to make a full recovery.
“It’d be easy to dwell on it and pout, but that just does nothing,” Neilon said. “It happened, and it is what it is. There’s only one way to get better, and that’s through hard work.”
Like raaaiiiin on your pro day
A torrent of frigid early-morning rain didn’t make for ideal conditions for NFL hopefuls planning to make their mark at USC’s pro day.
Running back Travis Dye, who broke the fibula in his left ankle last November, was especially dismayed by the weather and wet practice field. He hoped a fast 40 time might help ease any concerns from NFL scouts about his speed after the ankle injury.
Dye said his ankle was 100%. The soaking wet turf on Allyson Felix Field? Not so much.
“Every time I sunk my foot down, it felt like I was running in mud,” Dye said.
Jordan Addison didn’t seem to mind much, however.
“The rain came down, so I’m like, OK, now I’m really going to show them what I’m about,” Addison said.
The USC wideout ran routes in the rain, but, as with most of the Trojans’ top draft prospects, didn’t run a 40 because of the inclement weather.
Asked about where he stands in a crowded crop of receiver prospects, Addison was unequivocal.
“I know I’m the best wide receiver in this draft,” Addison said.
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