T'Vondre Sweat leads group of NFL's big-guy prospects hoping to prove they're worth the weight

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Texas defensive lineman T'Vondre Sweat jokes how people will react after he runs the 40-yard dash as he speaks during a press conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

INDIANAPOLIS – Defensive tackle T'Vondre Sweat might have been the biggest guy on Texas' campus the past five seasons.

It may be a fitting title for the NFL next season, too.

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After extra medical checks caused a nearly four-hour delay in his scheduled appearance at the league's annual scouting combine, the 6-foot-4, 365-pound former Texas star brushed aside any lingering concerns, stood at the podium and made sure it was worth the wait.

“I’m just a big guy,” he said. “You know, a lot of people get scared of the numbers and all that, but when y’all see me move tomorrow, I feel like a lot of people are going to be like, worried about his numbers? You know what I mean?"

Sweat certainly cut an imposing figure for the Longhorns, but he doesn't look like any other defensive prospect at the combine.

Byron Murphy II, who played next to Sweat the past three seasons and has been projected to be the first defensive tackle taken in April's draft, wore a fitted shirt that showed off his muscular 6-1, 308-pound frame.

The biggest threat to the Texas tandem being first off the board, could be Johnny Newton, who played last season at 6-2, 295. His college teammate at Illinois, Keith Randolph Jr., also is at the combine after producing another solid season, at 6-5, 300.

Yes, all are big men — just not as much as when they're in the presence of Sweat.

“He's a big human being," Randolph said. "I see why he is who he is, he definitely is, it's pretty cool.”

But for Sweat, this is about more than size.

Late last year, he won the 2023 Outland Trophy and the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year award. He was a unanimous All-American and struck the Heisman pose after catching a 2-yard TD pass in the Big 12 championship game. He won a conference title, played a big part in Texas' first appearance in the four-team College Football Playoff and then headed to Mobile, Alabama, where he participated in and met with team executives at the Senior Bowl.

Sweat is fearless, too, so, naturally, he intends to buck the trend of top prospects opting out of the combine workouts.

“I’ll let y’all know I’m doing everything at the combine before y’all even ask,” he volunteered before drawing laughter by saying he'd run the 40-yard dash in 4.4 or 4.5 seconds. “I feel like a lot of y’all are going to be like ... When I run this 40, I’m going to shock a lot of y’all.”

He also has something to prove — even in his extra-large body, he's nimble enough to be an NFL game-wrecker.

Murphy, Newton and Randolph face other questions.

Newton won't work out in Indy after undergoing foot surgery in January for a partial fracture though it didn't impact his performance last season. Scouts should have another chance to see the reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year work out, though.

“I couldn't give you like which game it happened, I forgot. But I've been feeling it for a long time,” Newton said. “So I got the surgery, knocked it out of the way and I should be ready for pro day, the first week of April.”

At the moment, Randolph is the lowest rated of the big four. Draft analysts question whether he's big enough or quick enough to become an NFL starter. Then again, he didn't really begin playing football until he was a junior in high school.

Murphy, on the other hand, attended the same Texas high school (DeSoto) as Von Miller and has drawn comparisons to three-time AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald. Those making the comparisons expect Murphy to make a seamless transition from college to the pros and make an immediate impact. His projection: top 10, maybe higher.

“I watch AD a lot,” Murphy said. "Also guys like Ed Oliver, Kenny Clark, guys like that, (Daron) Payne for the Commanders. I try to model my game after those guys. I just like the way they play, how disruptive (they are) and also their violence.”

Playing alongside a Texas-sized partner helps, too.

But now the two friends are involved in another competition to see who goes first in April. And while Murphy is confident he'll win this one, he'd never underestimate his massive friend who embraces his size.

“This past season I played at 365 and that's what I feel comfortable at," Sweat said. “You know how a man is, we've got to grow into our bodies. This is me, as y'all see, I'm a big guy, big frame and that's just how it is."


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