INDIANAPOLIS - Pete Carroll always loved him some Byron Maxwell, even before the ex-Clemson cornerback helped lift the Legion of Boom to a Super Bowl title.
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A Fort Dorchester product from North Charleston, and a four-year Tigers letterman, Maxwell was a sixth-round draft pick in 2011 by the Seattle Seahawks.
When cornerback Brandon Browner was suspended for substance abuse this fall, Maxwell started the last five regular season games, plus lined up against Drew Brees, Colin Kaepernick and Peyton Manning in playoff victories.
"That's a great story, you know, because Byron came in as a lower-round pick. Really good, competitive, tough kid," Carroll told reporters Friday at the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. "He showed his mettle in special teams, was a great gunner in special teams; that tells you something about a player. He really jumped out at us."
Carroll said Maxwell "had a great camp; but nobody knew it" since he was relegated to the second string behind Browner and All-Pro Richard Sherman.
Maxwell had four interceptions in his five regular season starts, which equaled his four-year total at Clemson from 2007-10.
"For us to get that emergence was enormous for our football season," Carroll said. "When Byron had his chance, and other people think, 'Oh boy, they're going to their second-team guy,' I was really excited. Because I'd seen what he had done to get there, and hoping he would handle it well. And boy, he handled it beautifully."
Maxwell became one of many Seattle stories of late-drafted or underrated Seahawks who played key roles in the franchise's first championship.
"It's really a cool story, because he fought his way through it, battled his way through competitiveness, and then showed just top-line, first-rate play when he eventually had his chance," Carroll said. "Really was a big story for us this season, that he came through like he did."
South Carolina receiver Bruce Ellington is actually taller than you think.
On the Gamecocks' official depth chart, the Moncks Corner product was always listed at 5-9. The Combine's tape measure was kinder, officially sizing Ellington at 5-9 and three-quarters of an inch. Ellington weighed in at 197 pounds, near his college weight.
Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins is officially 6-foot and three-quarters of an inch, just a smidge below his college height of 6-1, and 211 pounds, up six from last fall. However, Watkins' teammate, Martavis Bryant, was always listed in college as 6-5 and 200 pounds. Bryant has added 11 pounds of muscle, but the Combine found him to be 6-3.
"Man, when we had to (measure), he rocked me back and he's pushing my head down," Bryant said with a laugh. "Guess we gotta go by this one."
Clemson QB Tajh Boyd is 6-1 and 222 pounds, with hands measured at 95/8 inches wide - larger than Teddy Bridgewater and Blake Bortles, but smaller than Johnny Manziel (97/8 inches.) South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw is 6-foot and 206 pounds, with a 91/4-inch hand.
Known more for his footwork and technique, Clemson left tackle Brandon Thomas did himself plenty of favors with his work on the bench press Friday.
He posted 35 repetitions on a 225-pound bar, the sixth-most among 40 offensive linemen in the mix. This was actually a tougher year competitively - in 2013, only one lineman topped 35 presses, and that player had 36.
Thomas was twice an all-ACC tackle, but he could switch to guard in an NFL camp. He's projected as a second-round draft selection.
Thomas measured in at 6-3 and 317 pounds - nearly his exact specifications as listed in Clemson's bowl guide, just two pounds heavier.
Defensive ends Jadeveon Clowney and Kelcy Quarles will meet the media Saturday, while Boyd, Watkins and Shaw also could appear.
The quarterbacks and receivers show their on-field skills Sunday, while Clowney and Quarles work out Monday. Cornerbacks Bashaud Breeland (Clemson) and Vic Hampton (South Carolina) talk Sunday and perform Tuesday.
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