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Lions run, lift, interview and wait

Not every drill at the NFL Combine or Pro Day directly translates to what players will be asked to do on Sundays. The broad jump, for example.

Hill shaved nearly three-tenths of a second off his 40 time from the combine.

"How many times are you going to see me jump in a game?" a grinning 300-pound defensive tackle Jordan Hill asked reporters on Monday.

But the broad jump and the bench press and the 40-yard dash and the individual sessions with scouts are all part of what is, in many ways, a job interview. A group of Penn State seniors that went through a lot in the past year gladly endured every test and every question Monday on the chance that it got them a step closer to a dream most of them have held since they could toss a football.

"You have to stay focused and just know that every play, every second, every thing could be analyzed," center Matt Stankiewitch said.

Stankiewitch, Hill, Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti all performed for scouts at the combine in Indianapolis last month, so they could pick and choose which drills they wanted to try to improve upon or sit out altogether Monday.

For other Lions, like defensive ends Sean Stanley and Pete Massaro, quarterback Matt McGloin, offensive lineman Mike Farrell or cornerback Stephon Morris, "you get one opportunity," as Morris said.

The Nittany Lions had spent hours during the past three months preparing specifically for that opportunity, many working on a program designed by Craig Fitzgerald and his training staff with the combine and Pro Day in mind.

"As we improve with our technique out here I've also seen improvement transfer over from the weight room in terms of strength and explosiveness on all these drills," Farrell said. "I think it's a really great program and I'm really thankful to Coach Fitz and his whole staff just for taking the time to do something that's not on their job requirements."

Penn State's seniors adjusted quickly to Fitzgerald, Bill O'Brien and the rest of the new coaching staff last winter and spring. They're anxious to prove they can be just as adaptable at the next level.

"Hopefully they consider us having a whole new coaching staff and then after a couple of months having to translate everything onto the field," Hodges said.

And after the sanctions hit the program last July, the seniors had more adjusting to do.

"One of the main things that the NFL looks for other than athletic ability is character, and what we did this last year here defines a whole lot of character and a lot of values that we stand for," fullback Michael Zordich said. "They wanted to know how we did it and why we did it and we told them exactly that."

Like the 40 times and bench press reps, though, how the Nittany Lions handled the off-field trials was only part of the puzzle.

"I've gotten some questions about what went on and what we went through," Farrell said. "What seems to be the consensus with scouts and guys who know football is that they were impressed with the way things were handled by our team. Sometimes they'll just point that out and not really ask a lot about it. It's good to see they respect what we were able to do, but at the same time, it's slightly isolated from what they want to know about us."

Most of the Nittany Lions don't really care where they're drafted, or which team takes them. All they want is a shot to continue to prove themselves, and for what has been a fairly stressful period of waiting, training, and waiting some more to come to an end. A broad jump they'll never execute on the football field is a small price to pay.

"I just want to know where I'm gonna be in a couple months," Hill said.

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