ATHENS, Ga. — The National Football League will hold its annual draft April 28 through April 30, and former University of Georgia Bulldog Chris Mayes will be right there in the mix.
Mayes turned several heads at the 2016 NFL Combine, but he had not played football all his life. The 24-year-old defensive lineman shocked many because he started football so late in his life. Mayes started his junior year in high school — basketball had always been his first love.
College ball came in the picture shortly after Mayes touched the field at Spalding high school in Griffin, Ga. Scouts from all over traveled to see him practice. According to Mayes, there were around five scouts the first day of spring practice, but the next day, there were up to 20. One familiar face made an appearance — new UGA head coach Kirby Smart.
“Guys like Kirby Smart — our head coach now — followed me around with a camera and watched my every move,” said Mayes.
The NFL became a realistic goal of his when he received an invite to the 2016 NFL Combine. Teammates had received their invites well before Mayes, so when he finally received his invitation, the lineman did not believe this opportunity was tangible.
“It came in an email, so I just randomly checked my email,” said Mayes. “And I [saw] ‘Chris Mayes you’re invited to the combine.’ I thought it was like spam or something.”
Mayes made the most of his experience in Indianapolis. He had the largest number of bench presses than any other defensive lineman there, making him the strongest of the group. Surprisingly, he wanted more than the 33 he maxed out with although it exceeded the number of all of his competitors.
The reason he stopped — not because he was tired.
“I was sliding off the bench because it was so narrow,” said Mayes. “My back is a little wider than it, so I was kind of sliding off — I didn’t want to injure myself.”
The defensive lineman had high hopes for his future, and although he was progressing in his life, he still had a message for his teammates.
“Thank you for giving me a hard time,” said Mayes. “That’s what I’ll tell them.”
By Kaitlin Long