LARAMIE — The second-leading tackler in school history. One of the leading tacklers in Mountain West history. A three-time first-team all-Mountain West selection.
Yet there’s still more for Andrew Wingard to prove starting this week at the NFL scouting combine.
The thorough pre-draft event will certainly give the former Wyoming safety the proper platform. Wingard is scheduled to arrive Thursday in Indianapolis, where many of the nation’s top draft-eligible prospects will be under the watchful eye of personnel from all 32 NFL teams as they go through interviews, examinations and on-field workouts into next week.
For players widely projected to be first-round picks — Oklahoma quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray, Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa and Kentucky rush specialist Josh Allen, to name a few — there’s not much to worry about regardless how their week goes. But many mock drafts have Wingard being selected in the late rounds if at all, meaning how the 6-foot, 214-pounder performs inside Lucas Oil Stadium could go a long way in determining if he hears his name called during the three-day draft, which begins April 25 in Nashville, Tennessee.
“Definitely I’ll be nervous for sure. If you’re not nervous, you’re doing something wrong,” Wingard said. “Just knowing I’ve got to this place, this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be at the NFL combine, I think I’m just going to try to make the most of it. I do that whenever I get in those high-pressure situations, but I’m just going to relax and fall back on my training.”
Wingard has been training three days a week since the start of the new year at EXOS San Diego, an elite training facility in southern California. Each of those days consists of a morning and afternoon session as Wingard focuses on improving his speed, agility and athleticism.
“We’ve been running a lot. Kind of like a track team,” Wingard said. “Our speed coach out here said, ‘You get two chances to run the fastest you’ve ever run (at the combine), and that’s it.’ We’ve been doing a ton of pulling sleds, running on the track and running on the treadmill. It’s been a really big emphasis on speed.”
That’s because it’s the biggest question for most at the next level when it comes to his game. A four-year starter at Wyoming, Wingard racked up 454 career tackles, tying him with former New Mexico standout Carmen Messina for the most in Mountain West history.
Most of that production came as a run-stopping safety playing near the line of scrimmage, though he tied for the league lead with five interceptions as a junior and finished with 18 career pass breakups. Still, it’s a label Wingard knows he’s going to have a hard time shedding unless he can show he’s got the speed to hold up in coverage against NFL pass-catchers.
While Wingard said he’ll participate in every part of the combine, the 40-yard dash is arguably the most important in regards to his draft stock. Wingard said he’s been consistently clocked around 4.5 seconds during his training, but his goal is to be on the low end of that with a few days to rest up between now and when he runs at the combine Monday.
“There’s going to be people looking at the way you flip your hips, change your direction and the other stuff,” said Wingard, who’s listed as the draft’s No. 20 safety prospect by walterfootball.com. “Trying to get that down, too, has been an emphasis, but obviously the biggest emphasis is the 40. Those few reps are worth a lot of money.”
There’s been minimal contact between Wingard and NFL teams leading up to the combine, and he said he’s received no indication from teams as to which rounds they might be looking at drafting him.
That kind of chatter usually ramps up at the combine, where Wingard said he’s eager to let his performance do most of the talking for him.
“I was a free safety basically my first two years, but no one wants to point that out,” Wingard said. “They kind of want to label me as a stiff-hips box guy that’s not very fast. Nothing could be further from the truth honestly. I’m going to test really well in Indy. I think I’m going to turn a lot of heads not only with my 40 but also my change of direction and my vertical and broad jumps, so I’m looking forward to that.”