Rainy USC pro day: Reflections on injured Andrew Vorhees’ viral combine moment

The doctor broke the news early this morning, before his second day of testing at the NFL scouting combine began. Andrew Vorhees was in the Indianapolis Colts locker room, literally on the threshold of his NFL dream, when he got word. The anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee was torn. Everything about the start of his NFL career was suddenly called into question.

When he tweaked his knee in practice the day before, Vorhees didn’t think much of it, he said. He barely felt any pain.

Now, the prognosis came as a gut punch to USC’s All-American guard, who was unable to execute at the school’s pro day on Tuesday.

“Definitely devastating,” Vorhees said, “but life is about how you respond to the events that are happening.”

The response that day would make him an unexpected viral video sensation of this draft process, garnering attention from all corners of the football community and beyond. But at the time, Vorhees just tried to focus on what was in front of him. His bench press was two hours away.

USC offensive lineman Andrew Vorhees participates in the bench press during the NFL combine Monday, March 6, 2023, in Indianapolis. (Images for AJ Mast/AP NFL)

(AJ Mast/Associated Press)

“There was no doubt in my mind that I was going to bank,” Vorhees said. “I had to get a doctor’s clearance first, but I was like, ‘Hey, look, I’ve got a sore knee, I’m still healthy everywhere else, right?’ “

When the time came, he crushed Vorhees with his crutches, his leg stuck in the air. He couldn’t even stand lying on the chair, holding the bar with both hands.

But Vorhees did one rep at 225 pounds, then another, then another. He would do 38 before he finally couldn’t handle it anymore.

Either option would handle the most reps throughout the week at the combine.

Vorhees has continued to marvel at the leak ever since. He has yet to respond to all the texts he received after the bank press video went viral.

“One of the coolest things,” Vorhees said, “was a lot of kids coming up to me, saying how inspiring I am to them.”

A long recovery still awaits. Vorhees is scheduled to have knee surgery next week. After that, Vorhees said, “it should be cleared sometime in the fall.”

How that timeline might change the All-American’s draft position is unclear. Before the injury, he was expected to be picked somewhere in the first three rounds.

USC offensive lineman Andrew Vorhees, left, and Fresno State defensive back Alzillion Hamilton get physical.

USC offensive lineman Andrew Vorhees, left, and Fresno State defensive back Alzillion Hamilton get physical.

(Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)

Amidst all the positive vibes from his bench’s viral press, Vorhees has tried not to think too much about exactly where he picked in next month’s draft. Instead, he focused on his answer.

“I try to stay away from that,” Vorhees said. “One less thing to put on your mind and worry about.”

Vorhees isn’t the only USC lineman sidelined early in his NFL career. Center Brett Neilon, who started alongside Vorhees the past three seasons, suffered a torn Achilles tendon in USC’s Pac-12 title loss to Utah.

Neilon said Tuesday he was three months into an eight- to 10-month recovery process, but assured he would be healthy at the start of practice.

The season-ending injury makes it unlikely he will play, but Neilon said he expects to make a full recovery.

“It would be easy to dig into it and tear it apart, but that doesn’t do anything,” Neilon said. “It happened, and that’s what it is. There is only one way to improve, and that is hard work.’

Like raaaiiiin on your pro day

A chilly early morning rain didn’t make for ideal conditions for NFL hopefuls looking to make their mark at USC’s pro day.

Running back Travis Dye, who broke the fibula in his left ankle last November, was particularly upset about the weather and the wet training field. He hoped a fast 40 time would help ease the concerns of NFL scouts after the ankle injury.

Dye said his ankle was 100%. The grass at Alyson Felix Field soaking wet? Not that much.

USC running back Travis Dye walks in the rain Tuesday during the school's NFL pro day.

USC running back Travis Dye walks in the rain Tuesday during the school’s NFL pro day.

(Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press)

“Every time I sunk my foot I felt like I was running through mud,” Dye said.

Jordan Addison didn’t seem to mind much, though.

“The rain came down, so okay, now I’m really going to show them what I’m about,” Addison said.

The USC wideout ran routes in the rain, but, as with most of the Trojans’ top draft picks, he didn’t get a 40 because of the inclement weather.

Asked where he stands in a crowded crop of receiver prospects, Addison was unequivocal.

“I know I’m the best receiver in this draft,” he said.

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