A couple days after the calendar rolled over to 2016, Brandon Wilds’ workload turned up a notch.
The former Blythewood and South Carolina running back was off to Florida, to train all day, every day at IMG Academy for the NFL Draft. This past week, he was out west in Los Angeles showing off his skills and representing his school in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.
And in a few weeks, he’ll put those skills on display on the biggest stage this process has to offer: the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.
“It’s huge,” Wilds said early this week. “I worked all my life up to this point, so that was a big offer when looked at my email and saw I was invited to the Combine. Everybody would always see it on TV. I’d be in college, seeing my former teammates participate in it. Whether I’m in class, watching it when I’m not supposed to.”
Never miss a local story.
One could probably forgive him for that one.
The official Combine list has not been released, but it's expected that former Gamecocks Pharoh Cooper, Brandon Shell and Jerell Adams will join Wilds in Indianapolis.
In the all-star game, he didn’t get the most touches (four carries), but made the most of them with 39 yards at a healthy 9.8 yard average. These games are more about the practices beforehand than the 60 live minutes, and Wilds came away from that part confident as well.
He had to pick up the offense quickly, reading coverages and defensive fronts more than in the past.
He also said he got to chat with scouts, work hands-on with them at times and show off a range of skills. He understands the role of a modern running back is a bit more diverse.
“You’ve got to have more than one back on the team nowadays,” Wilds said. “And I can run and catch, and throw actually. I guess that caught a lot of their attention.”
Wilds admitted there was something a little odd about working out for scouts representing teams he’d watched so many times on television. But the atmosphere also brought something welcome and new.
“It was my first time on the West Coast, let alone being in Los Angeles,” said Wilds, who was productive when healthy across four injury-limited seasons at USC. “But had a great time. Whole different environment. Different time zone. A lot of new things.”
Now it’s back to the almost-monkish life at IMG. He said he’s on a strict workout diet, and spends the days going through workouts, running routes and even taking classes on minutiae such as breathing technique.
Soon enough he’ll be bound for Indiana, ready to get poked, prodded and tested along with more than 300 of the top pro prospects nationally (323 attended last year). With the next step in his sights, he understands he’ll have to do whatever is asked to earn his spot on the next level.
“When you get drafted to a team, not only will you be a running back on the team, you’ll also be on kickoffs, specialist, kick return specialist, do just a bunch of other things,” Wilds said. “Can’t just go to a team expecting to say, ‘Hey, I’m just going to play running back.’ ”