For someone who is about to embark on the biggest day of his young life, Ryan Steed appears remarkably calm.
The NFL combine can be a daunting mental and physical challenge, even for the most hardened, high-profile prospect from a major college football team. One misstep or wrong answer can be the difference between being a first-round pick in the NFL draft and a guy who's forced to sit around for two days waiting for his name to be called.
For a guy like Steed, a three-time All-Southern Conference pick at Furman, a bad showing at the NFL combine could end his chances of being drafted.
But the importance of what's about to happen doesn't seem to faze the Mount Pleasant native.
Steed spent Sunday being poked and prodded by NFL team doctors. On Monday, it was interviews with NFL scouts and general managers, and psychological testing, including the now infamous Wonderlic Test, a 50-question examination that measures a prospect's learning and problem-solving ability.
But today, it's all about the physical side of the game. When Steed steps onto the Lucas Oil Field sometime this afternoon, he will finally be able to show off the physical tools that many scouts believe make him a legitimate second- or third-round pick in April's draft.
"The combine is what it is," said Steed, a 5-11, 185-pound defensive back. "I'm really not worried about it. It's a process, and if you're ready for it, you're going to be fine. If not, you're going to fail."
The former Pinewood Prep star spent the last two months in Bradenton, Fla., at the IMG sports academy preparing for the combine. Steed has been working out two or three times a day, six days a week since January.
"They go over everything," Steed said of IMG. "We go through mock interviews and take tests, and then we're working out on everything we're going to see at the combine. There are not many secrets about what's going to go on at the combine. It's like going through a dress rehearsal, so there are no surprises when I get to Indianapolis."
Coming from a small school like Furman, Steed knows he has to prove he can compete with the players from the best football programs in the country. Despite the success of former SoCon players like Terrell Owens (Chattanooga), Dexter Coakley (Appalachian State), Randy Moss (Marshall), Steed knows he's facing an uphill battle with some NFL scouts.
"You'd like to think it doesn't matter what school you went to. If you can play, you can play. But in reality, some scouts can't get past the fact that I went to Furman," Steed said. "My margin of error is a lot smaller than a guy who played in the SEC or the ACC. The only thing I can do is go out there and compete as hard as I can and hopefully they're not worried about what school I went to."
Steed feels like he proved during last month's Senior Bowl practices that he could play with the big boys of college football. He more than held his own against some of the elite wide receivers in the nation, including Arkansas' Joe Adams, North Carolina's Dwight Jones and Florida's Chris Rainey.
"I think I opened some eyes at the Senior Bowl," Steed said. "I kind of played with a chip on my shoulder all week."