No one can accurately predict the future. Not palm readers, not fortune-tellers, and certainly not NFL Draft experts. Every spring, the sports world's talking heads think they have the best college players in the nation pegged, but the NFL Draft is just a high-stakes guessing game. Even if a guy is talented, there's no way to know how he'll respond to signing a massive contract, having an entire city fawn over him, and rediscovering old friends who keep popping up looking for easy money. The only real things you can hang your hat on, as far a prospect goes, are his numbers.
Which brings us to Vernon Gholston, former Ohio State Buckeye, and current phenom-in-waiting. He carries around 265 pounds on a 6'3" frame with a ridiculously tiny waist. He's lean-down to about 6% body fat by his estimation-and he's powerful, putting up 37 reps on the 225-pound combine bench test. Not only that, but he's been groomed for success. "Being at Ohio State is pretty much like being in the NFL already," says Gholston. "If we lost two games a season, it wasn't very successful." So, in our eyes, he's ready. And while we won't say he's the "next big thing," let's just say he's plenty big and pretty strong. Check out part one of our two-part conversation with the Gholston. (We'll check back with him after he's off the board.)
MF: What's your gut feeling as to where you will be drafted?
Gholston: It's hard to tell. I've had a lot of interest from the top eight. I've had visits or talks with all of them, so it's kind of wide open right now.
MF: Has it been a little overwhelming at times?
Gholston: Nah. The hard part was going to class and practicing afterwards during the season. This is the easy part. I can perform and do all I can to help my draft status and show teams what I'm about, but at the end of the day, it's all on them.
MF: Where have you been doing your pre-draft training?
Gholston: It's two-fold. After the (BCS) Championship game, I went down to Athlete's Performance, Inc., in Phoenix back on January 10th. I was down there for about six weeks preparing for the combine. They did a great job, as far as helping me eat right. I dropped some body fat down there, about 2%. I came in there at eight-something, and left at six-something.
MF: Did you run into any other pros at API?
Gholston: I saw a number of guys come through there. [Carolina Panthers DE] Julius Peppers was just getting started. I've seen [Dallas Cowboys DT] Tank Johnson down there, [Arizona Cardinals WR] Larry Fitzgerald. A lot of guys that were in the previous combine tend to flock back, because they know they do a good job.
MF: You benched 225 pounds 37 times at the NFL Scouting Combine. Were you happy with all your other numbers?
Gholston: I wouldn't say I was happy; 37 reps were great, but I was actually reaching for more. If I had a couple more weeks to work on it, I probably would have gotten to 40. You're only allowed to go through some drills once. You work on it for six weeks and you get one try. That's just part of the Combine.
MF: Most of our readers won't ever bench 225 pounds 37 times. How can our readers bench better?
Gholston: The biggest thing about benching is that it's not going to happen in one day or two weeks, you know? To get those high numbers, it takes time. Yeah, I'm close to pressing 500 pounds, but it wasn't an overnight thing. I've been bench-pressing for seven years. Develop a technique that's good for you, as far as hand placement and good posture. Then, set a number and a daily or weekly goal of how many reps you should hit. You shouldn't bench more than two or three times a week, but every week, look for an extra rep to gain.
MF: Where have you been training since the Combine?
Gholston: After the Combine was over, I quickly came back to Columbus and started working with my trainer, Eric Lichter. It was great for me. His training style is something that I'm used to. We only had like 10 days before the actual pro day, but just the couple of days that I did spend working really helped me.
MF: How has your training shifted since recording your numbers on the bench?
Gholston: Well, you understand football's coming back up so you go back to getting ready for a season. There's different ways that you can go about it. Me, I've always been around the six-to-seven rep range-with a weight that I can use for six to seven reps; increase by 10 pounds, six to seven reps there; and then increase by 10 pounds for six or seven reps. The most I do is four to five sets, six to seven reps.
MF: I want to look at the squat a little bit. What's your max squat right now?
Gholston: I never actually maxed out, but with the calculation done as far as rep versus weight, I got up to about 700-something. It's kind of legendary here. I did 455 pounds for 20 reps about two years ago.
MF: Not all of our readers are advanced lifters, so why is the squat important to athletic performance, in your opinion?
Gholston: Think about a car or a tree: if you've got a firm base, you ain't pushing it over. I don't care how strong your bench is, if you don't have the legs or the strong base to be able to push someone, the bench ain't really going to matter too much. That's the foundation that's always going to be important.
MF: How has playing ball at Ohio State prepared you for the NFL?
Gholston: Every year, we have guys going to the NFL. We've got a great track record in the league. There's also the standard that we're held to. If we lose more than two games in a season, it wasn't very successful for us. A lot of teams can't say that. We're held to high standards; we've got games every year that we have to win, Michigan being one of them. We put a lot of time and a lot of work into what we do. Being at Ohio State is pretty much like being in the NFL already. It's great preparation to understand the workload that you're going to be given.
MF: The NFL Scouting Combine has been referred to as a meat market. Do you feel like a piece of meat at all?
Gholston: They have you onstage for the weigh-in, you kind of stand up there and they look at you half naked, but I wouldn't say it's a meat market. It's just them covering their grounds.
MF: So, meat market or not, what kind of steak would Vernon Gholston be?
Gholston: (laughs) Ribeye's got a lot of fat on there. I'd probably be a porterhouse: pretty lean, but at the same time, pretty flavorful, pretty good.