The problem that many of these kids face is the short time period they must deliver their goods in. Draft potential is often misconstrued by small samples rather than the sum of the parts.
fell into the first category, someone who is falling despite a solid career at South Carolina
"I started off kind of slow (at the Senior Bowl) and I think after the second day I came out and started to pick it up and really competed well," said Wharton. "I could have done a lot better, but it was only a week."
Only a week. Slow weeks translate to players dropping a round in the draft. It happens every year despite the warning of General Managers to the contrary.
And now the second stage of the Tour de Draft begins in earnest at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis. A chance for redemption.
Working with the San Diego Chargers
staff at the Senior Bowl has given Wharton a taste of what he will endure at the Combines this week. It was also a learning process for him and one he plans to use to further his career.
"I learned a lot in the short time I was with them," said Wharton. "Down there with NFL coaches and learning the styles of different coaches."
Was there anything specific he took with him?
"Stance – that helps any player – getting in a good stance and knowing how to work a block and things to watch for," Wharton said. "How they helped us watching film together –learning – it was a little different the way we conducted our film study. We asked them a lot of questions, instead of the coach telling you different things. He wanted you to see what you see, asking for your input."
This pressure to perform can get to players. Getting pushed and pulled and prodded and sequestered is not a fun way to spend a weekend. While many will claim the Draft started three to four years ago for these kids, the truth is three to four months is where the choices are made.
From December Bowl games through March Pro Days, the duress is magnified. Is your shoulder healed, is your weight ideal, how fast do you run, are you strong enough.
While many know these days are coming, the rigors of a full load of classes, football practice and playing on Saturdays, where Wharton started 44 of 48 games at SC, limit the training for these high profile events.
But Wharton takes the pressure in stride. In fact, he broadened the scope to put it in perspective.
"Every time you step out there you always have to prove yourself," Wharton said. "Somebody is always working to prove themselves. Right now you are getting prepared for the drills and just working for NFL teams when before you were working out for your own team to get ready for the season. It is a different level, but you work hard no matter what. At this stage of my life, I am still working hard."
And when he gets to the NFL with a team to be named later, Wharton will do whatever it takes. Down to a comfortable weight that fluctuates between 308 and 310, the 6-foot-4 left tackle will concede his spot if asked.
"Wherever I get an opportunity to play, I will play. I am going to work hard at it. If I play inside, I play inside. As of right now I am a left tackle."
That giving attitude and willingness to do anything for the team is one step in righting any one week he had in January. It is the type of leadership that prompted his peers to give him a role as team captain in 2003 for the Gamecocks.
The Tour de Draft is in stage two and Wharton is already climbing that hill. His hope is to gather speed heading into the Pro Day stage and coast into the Draft when April rolls around.
Travelle Wharton has already been through one learning process at the Senior Bowl. Now he takes his show on the road for this week's NFL Combines in Indianapolis. Wharton was disappointed in his performance in Mobile and is looking to bounce back this week as the 2004 NFL Draft quickly approaches.