The doctor broke the news early that morning, just before his second day of testing began 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 the news. He tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Everything about the beginning of his NFL career had suddenly been called into question.
When he hurt his knee during exercises the day before, Vorhees didn’t think much of it, he said. He had barely felt pain.
Now, the prognosis landed like a punch to the stomach for the USC All-American guard, who was unable to participate in the school’s pro day Tuesday.
“Definitely devastating,” Vorhees said, “but life is about how you respond to the events that are happening.”
His response that day would make him an unexpected viral video sensation of this selection process, drawing attention from all corners of the football community and beyond. But at that moment, Vorhees just tried to focus on what was in front of him. His bench press was two hours away.
“I had no doubt that he would go to the bench,” Vorhees said. “First I had to get the doctor’s clearance, but I said, ‘Hey, look, my knee hurts, I’m still healthy in everything else, right?’ ”
When the time came, Vorhees limped over on crutches, his leg in a cast. He couldn’t even plant his leg as he leaned back on the bench, gripping the bar with both hands.
But Vorhees did one rep at 225, then another, then another. He would do 38 before he finally couldn’t handle any more.
It was the most reps any prospect would achieve all week at the combine.
Vorhees has been in awe of the outpouring ever since. He still hasn’t responded to all the text messages he received after the bench press video went viral.
“One of the best things,” Vorhees said, “was that so many kids have come up to me to tell me how inspiring I am to them.”
He still has a long recovery ahead of him. Vorhees is scheduled to undergo knee surgery next week. After that, Vorhees said, “he should be acquitted sometime in the fall.”
It remains uncertain how that timeline could alter the All-American’s draft position. Before the injury, he was expected to be selected 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’ll be drafted next month. Instead, he focuses on his response.
“I try to stay away from it,” Vorhees said. “Just one less thing to think about and worry about.”
Vorhees isn’t the only USC lineman sidelined early in his NFL career. Center Brett Neilon, who started alongside the Vorhees the past three seasons, suffered a torn Achilles tendon during USC’s Pac-12 title loss to Utah.
Neilon said Tuesday that he was three months into an eight- to 10-month recovery process, but assured that he would be healthy by the start of training camp.
His late-season injury makes it unlikely he’ll be drafted, but Neilon said he hopes to make a full recovery.
“It would be easy to think about it and pout, but that doesn’t do anything,” Neilon said. “It happened, and it is what it is. There is only one way to improve, and that is through hard work.”
I like raaaiiiin on your professional day
A torrent of freezing rain early this morning did not create ideal conditions for NFL hopefuls planning to make their mark on USC’s pro day.
Running back Travis Dye, who broke his left ankle fibula last November, was especially distraught by the weather and the wet practice field. He hoped a quick time of 40 would help alleviate NFL scouts’ concerns about his speed after the ankle injury.
Dye said his ankle was 100%. Soggy grass at Allyson Felix Field? Not so much.
“Every time I put my foot down, it felt like I was running in the mud,” Dye said.
However, Jordan Addison didn’t seem to care much.
“It rained, so I was like, OK, now I’m really going to show you what it’s all about,” Addison said.
The USC wide receiver ran routes in the rain, but, like most of the Trojans’ top draft prospects, he didn’t run 40 due to inclement weather.
When asked where he stands in a crowd of receiving prospects, Addison was unequivocal.
“I know I’m the best wide receiver in this draft,” he said.