INDIANAPOLIS — Mississippi State safety John Abram has a well-earned reputation as the hardest hitter in this year's safety class.
But he also has an unreal standard to live up to.
“Last year, I was a pretty good tackler, but I wasn't as efficient as I was this year,” he said during his media availability at the NFL Scouting Combine. “My wife, we talked about it a lot. She say if you're not hitting like Bobby Boucher, you're not really hitting.”
Boucher is the infamously violent defender portrayed by comedian Adam Sandler in the 1998 film “The Waterboy.” Almost everything Boucher does on the field would draw a penalty and a hefty fine in today's NFL.
But Abram displays the kind of physicality every team craves.
And he showed during the on-field drills Monday at Lucas Oil Stadium he has the athleticism to match.
Abram ran the 40-yard dash in 4.45 seconds and likely cemented his status as the first safety to be drafted next month in Nashville, Tenn. The biggest question remaining is exactly where he might play.
He's spent time at both free and strong safety and as a nickel cornerback during his college days at Georgia and Mississippi State.
“I was pretty much a utility guy,” Abram said. “Wherever you put me, I'm going to make the most of the role.”
Much was made Monday of the rumors the New York Giants will decline to place a franchise tag on Pro Bowl safety Landon Collins. At just 25 years old, he'll likely jump to the top of many teams' free agency lists.
But franchises that lose out on the bidding next week could turn to Abram for a similar fit.
Abram was in no hurry to define his game for the next level, but there's a couple of Seattle defenders from whom he has drawn inspiration.
“I pretty much try to emulate my game after a few guys, so, like Earl (Thomas),” he said. “He's always around the ball, so that's how I try to play. I'm always around. But, as well, I try to be a thumper as well coming out here and hitting like Kam Chancellor as well.”
Cornerbacks are literally racing to define themselves as the best at their position in this year's draft class.
Unlike the recent past, there's no consensus player at the top of the list.
LSU's Greedy Williams competed only in the 40-yard dash Monday, but the 6-foot-2 defender bolstered his case with a 4.37-second run.
A day earlier, he'd shown extreme confidence in his abilities.
“No doubt, film don’t lie,’’ Williams said of is standing at the position. “I am the best.’’
He's part of a strong recent pipeline coming out of Shreveport, La., joining successful pros Tre'Davious White of Buffalo and Morris Claiborne of the N.Y. Jets as top prospects bred in the city.
Williams isn't ready to put himself with those two players yet. But he's determined to join their ranks.
“I’ve got to go to the league and prove that, but those guys ahead of me kind of led the way for me,’’ he said. “I kind of learned from them. So now those two guys are on top of me right now.’’
Williams wasn't the only LSU prospect burning up the Lucas Oil Stadium sideline this weekend.
College teammate Devin White ran the 40 in 4.42 seconds on Sunday to pace the linebacker group.
He and Michigan's Devin Bush are projected to be the first two off-ball linebackers drafted next month, and White's sideline-to-sideline coverage ability reminds some evaluators of Carolina star Luke Kuechley.
“It’s very important for me to be the top inside linebacker in this draft,’’ White said. “I feel like I put the work in. I showed it throughout my career. I progressed every year. I did everything right on and off the field as far as being a great guy, having that attitude, going to work every day and leading my team.
“That was the biggest thing. I was the leader of my team. I was named the team captain two years in a row, as a sophomore and a junior. I have been doing all the formal interviews and knocking them out of the park. I am just doing everything right.’’