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2024 NFL Scouting Combine: What We Learned during Wednesday's activities in Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS -- Wednesday marked the first day of prospect press conferences at the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine, with defensive linemen and linebackers leading off the podium proceedings. Here are nine things we learned from their sessions with reporters on the eve of their workouts at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Tune in for live coverage of the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine beginning Feb. 29 at 3 p.m. ET on NFL Network and NFL+.

1) Detroit dreaming. Missouri defensive lineman Darius Robinson has gone from football newbie to possible first-round pick in a shockingly short span.

The Southfield, Michigan, native started playing the sport as a junior at Canton Prep and was an unheralded recruit for the Tigers. Now, a mere six years later, the 6-foot-5, 286-pound playmaker could be one of the 2024 NFL Draft's first 32 overall selections, especially following a very successful Senior Bowl performance.

Robinson said Wednesday he's met with just about every NFL team, either at the Senior Bowl or so far at the combine, and enjoyed each interaction. But one of the meetings felt a little different.

Robinson said he met with his hometown Detroit Lions on Tuesday in Indy, and it got him a little jacked up.

"My heart was bumpin'," he said. "I'll tell you, it was like a dream, sitting there with all the names and faces (in the room), growing up a Lions fan. It was a great interview."

There's also this: The Lions might be seeking defensive line help, and this year's draft will be held in none other than Detroit. Robinson said it's his goal to be one of the prospects invited to the April 25-27 event.

"That's my last goal," Robinson said. "I grew up 20 minutes away. That would be a dream come true. That's why I've come here to compete. ... I really hope I get the opportunity." -- Eric Edholm

2) From rushing passers to fighting fires? UCLA's Laiatu Latu arrives at the combine after being told he would no longer be able to play football just a few years ago. He missed the 2020 season with the Washington Huskies due to a neck injury and did not play in 2021 after UW doctors would not clear him because of the issue.

Latu did, however, receive clearance to play from Dr. Robert Watkins, who treated Peyton Manning's neck injury almost a decade earlier. The edge rusher transferred to UCLA and was a first-team All-Pac-12 pick in each of the last two seasons. He enters this week's events as NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah's No. 20 overall prospect, and discussed his ability to overcome the adversity stemming from his neck injury during his Wednesday press conference.

"Really, it was just, being told you're never going to be able to play football again -- I never let it get the best of me," he said. "I continued to work out, continued to get stronger, continued to work on my pass-rush moves and stuff like that. Really just locked in and never gave up on my dreams. I had dreams of being in this moment, being in the NFL since I was a kid and I never gave up on that."

He does have a plan, though, for whenever his football career comes to an end.

"If football didn't work out, especially after all this, I'd love to go into firefighting and work my way up to chief," Latu said.

Latu is already doing firefighter workouts, he said, which includes wearing a weighted vest during stair climbs. -- Dan Parr

3) The next Brian Burns? Dallas Turner is aiming to be the next great edge rusher to sprout at Alabama before blossoming in the NFL.

He already has a bit of experience with physical evolution. Turner spoke Wednesday of his weight changes during his time in Tuscaloosa, where he arrived with a bit of extra post-pandemic weight.

"I wasn't admitted early, so I came in May," Turner explained. "I was post-pandemic. I had a little gut, chubby face, stuff like that. So I was 260 (pounds) coming in, and then I lost all that in college. I was 240 by the season, and when I finished in the National Championship Game, I was 225."

Turner said on Wednesday he believes his best weight is 255, where he feels powerful.

Such a weight could bode well for his jump to the pros, as's Lance Zierlein has compared him to star Panthers edge rusher Brian Burns. The pre-testing measurables are nearly identical, and Zierlein's overviews of both players entering the draft are quite similar.

It worked out well for Burns, a two-time Pro Bowler who is in line for a big pay day. And with his vision for an ideal build dialed in, Turner could be on a similar track. -- Nick Shook

4) The origin of Chop (and Plump). One of Thursday's most anticipated workouts will be that of Penn State edge rusher Chop Robinson, whose freakish athletic ability is well-documented. At 255 pounds, he said his goal is to run a 4.4-second 40-yard dash, post a broad jump of 11 feet and leap 38 to 40 inches in the vertical.

All of those marks would place him among the top combine performers in modern history at his position.

Not bad for a guy who was once given the nickname "Plump" by family members.

"My household nickname is Plump, but nobody knows that," he said on Wednesday.

In fact, Robinson is a man of at least a few names. His first name is Demeioun, but he said the only time anyone ever calls him by that name is if he's in trouble. As for how he came to be known as Chop, that story dates to his birth.

"I was 14 pounds when I was born and my mom gave me the nickname Pork Chop," Robinson said. "But then, once I got older, I started to slim down and I couldn't have people calling me Pork Chop anymore because I wasn't big, so I just kept the Chop."

A lot more people might become familiar with his name if he puts on a show during his workout Thursday. -- Dan Parr

5) HEEEEEERE'S JOHNNY! The pre-draft process is fertile ground for debate, with prospects evaluated from all angles -- including name selection. Just ask Jer’Zhan “Johnny” Newton.

Ranked as analyst Bucky Brooks’ top defensive tackle and Daniel Jeremiah’s No. 28 overall prospect in the 2024 draft class, Newton's a disruptive force in the trenches. A bit undersized for the defensive interior, the Illinois product wins with quickness, leverage and strong/refined hand usage, predictably drawing comparisons to compact 3-tech terrors like Grady Jarrett, Ed Oliver, Javon Hargrave and, yes, on the hyperbolic end, Aaron Donald. An impressive list of names, but it's actually Newton's own handle that generates the most discussion in draft nerdom.

Is it Jer'Zhan or Johnny?

Innocuous at first blush, the question evokes strong opinions from the overcaffeinated prospect junkies on social media. And yes, the man himself has indeed noticed internet arguments on the matter.

"I saw somebody post it -- that was hilarious," Newton said. "You know I always engage into stuff like that, so it was pretty funny."

But what is Newton's personal preference? Does the son of Jervon Newton and Jovita Rich -- the brother of Jervon, Jerquan, Jerjuan and Jershaun -- prefer his birth name? Or does he favor the nickname that he says partially spawned from the fact that "a lot of people just don't know how to say Jer'Zhan"?

"Everybody calls me Johnny," Newton said. "If I'm in trouble, Jer'Zhan. But it's just Johnny."

So it's settled. -- Gennaro Filice

6) Trotter gains inspiration from late mother. Clemson linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Jr. is a familiar name to football fans, especially those of the Philadelphia Eagles. The elder Trotter spent more than a decade in the NFL, including parts of eight different seasons in Philadelphia as a four-time Pro Bowler.

The younger Trotter shares some of the same traits as his father, both known for their impactful hits. Even their draft ranges could end up being similar, with Trotter selected by the Eagles in Round 3 (72nd overall) of the 1998 NFL Draft.

Trotter Jr. might land in a similar spot. He said it would be a "blessing" to follow in his father's footsteps in Philadelphia.

Trotter Jr.'s mother also was a massive figure in his life, and she had just as high of aspirations for his NFL dreams. Wednesday marked the one-year anniversary of the passing of Tammi Trotter, who died last Feb. 28 after a battle with breast cancer.

"She means the world to me," Trotter said. "She was there my whole life, raised me, taught me everything that I need to know as a man. She taught me how to be a Christian man.

"I just love her. I miss her."

Trotter has mourned her loss every day since but said he's continued to feel her presence in his life, especially as he embarks on a pro career that Tammi helped prepare him for -- a goal she shared with him.

"I just know she's with me, you know? She is one of my motivating factors as well," Trotter said. "She's helped me stay focused and keep my head down, keep grinding. Because while [making the NFL] was always my dream, this was also her dream as well." -- Eric Edholm

7) A hot prospect with a stirring story. In an off-ball linebacker crop that lacks the marquee names of some recent draft classes, Junior Colson has become a buzzy prospect at the position.

A starter in all three of his seasons at Michigan, Colson was a mainstay on an elite defense that carried the Wolverines to three straight College Football Playoff appearances, culminating in the program's first national championship in 26 years. Offering an enticing mix of size, physicality, athleticism and green-dot instincts, the linebacker seems to be picking up steam in prospect rankings, including those of Daniel Jeremiah, who just bumped Colson up to No. 43 on his updated big board. Frankly, though, the 21-year-old's on-field prowess pales in comparison to his off-field resilience.

Born and raised in Haiti, Colson's childhood was upended by family deaths and the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that rocked the country in 2010. Adopted by an American family from a Port-au-Prince orphanage in the wake of the catastrophic natural disaster, Colson moved to a suburb of Nashville, Tennessee, before ultimately matriculating to Ann Arbor and becoming one of the top LB prospects for the 2024 NFL Draft. Inspiring stuff, to say the least.

"I survived an earthquake, I survived different things, I survived both my parents passing away," Colson said. "I don't think there's anything that somebody could throw at me that I'm not ready for."

One thing he's definitely ready for? Executing the advanced concepts of an NFL defense. Having played on units coordinated by new Seahawks HC Mike Macdonald and new Chargers DC Jesse Minter, Colson was forced to master the nuances of a Ravens-style scheme that befuddles offenses at the college and pro levels with amoeba tactics. The 'backer believes this will smooth his transition to the NFL.

"To be able to play in that type of defense helps tremendously," Colson said. "Our defense is so complex, it's so like, very, very versatile, that like you can basically play with me any type of defense, any kind ... Whatever, I played it." -- Gennaro Filice

8) Defenders with offensive prowess. Texas defensive tackle Byron Murphy II, projected to be a first-round selection by analysts, is on the smaller side, fitting the 3-technique mold of Aaron Donald and Ed Oliver.

His explosiveness could land him in Round 1. But Murphy also has a hidden talent: He's an offensive weapon.

The Longhorns put Murphy at fullback for one snap in 2021, followed by nine more there in 2022, getting used as a lead blocker without ever touching the ball. But that last part changed in 2023. Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian and offensive coordinator Kyle Flood, impressed with Murphy's athletic ability, wanted to get him the ball. Murphy was game.

"They came to me with the opportunity, and I just took it right away," he said.

It started in the Wyoming game, with Murphy catching a 1-yard TD pass. It ended with a 1-yard TD run against Washington in the Sugar Bowl. Impressively, both scores came with the Longhorns trailing.

However, fellow Texas DT T’Vondre Sweat also caught a TD pass last season against Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Championship Game -- and did so while weighing at least 50 pounds more than Murphy.

Asked who the better receiver is, Sweat didn't hesitate: "You're looking at him." -- Eric Edholm

9) Dogs rule in one prospect's house. Edgerrin Cooper is known for his physical play on the field, but he has a softer side to him, too.

The Texas A&M linebacker told reporters Wednesday he's the proud owner of six -- yes, six -- dogs.

The breeds: French bulldog and Cane Corso. Variety is often the spice of life, and Cooper's is certainly well-seasoned when it comes to his canine companions.

How does one balance the life of a Division I student-athlete with caring for a half-dozen dogs? With efficiency, starting with splitting up their walks.

"I take them at separate times," Cooper explained. "I had a backyard, or I'd take them to the dog park. I got everything set up to make it easy for me for when I come home and get free time. Those are my buddies right there."

Companionship is often essential for those striving to reach the greatest heights of their chosen pursuit. Cooper seems to have benefitted, earning All-American honors in 2023 while leading the Aggies with 84 tackles (17 for loss) and eight sacks, earning the best defensive grade among all FBS linebackers, per Pro Football Focus.

So, Cooper has plenty of dogs at home and plenty of dog in him on the football field. He'll aim to display his athleticism in Indianapolis on Thursday with the hopes of finding himself -- and his pets -- a new home in the NFL. -- Nick Shook

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