COLUMBIA — Ziggy Hood's father claims his son isn't complacent.
On MU's first Pro Day for NFL scouts on Thursday, Hood proved him right.
At last month's NFL Scouting Combine, Hood put on a show for the coaches and scouts in attendance. Hood did 34 repetitions on the 225-pound bench press, good for fourth among defensive linemen present. He also ran the 40-yard dash in 4.91 seconds, the second-best time for all the defensive tackles there. But rather than rely on his combine numbers, Hood did everything he could to make his wait a lot shorter on NFL Draft Day in late April.
"I was told that I had a big combine workout, but it's bigger than that," Hood said. "It's a personal goal to me to make myself better. It's about going out there and achieving things that I probably couldn't achieve on a daily basis."
Those achievements started on the first test of the day Thursday. Hood sat among a group of scattered teammates, his iPod headphones in, using the smooth crooning of Jamie Foxx to calm himself down before he made his way to the bench press.
Hood usually listens to more upbeat music before a lift, but the stage he found himself on provided plenty of stimulation on its own.
"I actually just wanted to relax," Hood said. "If you're too uptight here you're not going to do too well. I just wanted to make myself feel a little better."
After three of his teammates tried to do their best with the 225 pounds of weights, Hood moved onto the bench. He sat upright for a moment, his head just clearing the bar, and after a stinging slap to the ribs from strength and conditioning coach Pat Ivey he took a single deep breath, slid down onto the bench and lifted the bar from its supports.
To a growing set of cheers from the mob of teammates present, and for an audience of scouts donning a rainbow of Viking purple, Packer green, Giant blue and more than a dozen other pieces of logo-stamped garb, Hood launched the bar up from his gargantuan chest 35 times. The performance was equal to his personal record, and just one rep more than his vaunted display at the combine. But that single rep made all the difference.
Hood leapt from the bench and in complete unison with the rest of his teammates let out a roar that echoed above the music playing in the room.
"If I did 34 or less, I would've been up tonight questioning what I did wrong," Hood said. "I would've been thinking about what I can do better.
"To get it will help me sleep better."
That self-motivation provides no surprise to Hood's father. Charles Hood coached his son when he was young, and he says that in every aspect of his son's life, he has never needed an extra push from anyone.
"I never had to yell at him," Charles Hood said. "I never once had to spank him. He always did what you told him, and most of the time you didn't even need to tell him."
Charles Hood watched his son's impressive display of strength wearing a shirt that features a photograph of him and his soon-to-be famous son. Ziggy is in his uniform, his massive arm wrapped around his slender father. Around the photo, in large golden type are the words, "Dreams Do Come True."
If the dream is the NFL and a hefty paycheck, then Ziggy Hood has used the past three weeks to make it an inevitable reality. Hood is widely regarded as one of the best three defensive tackles in the draft, and even before his showing on Thursday was thought to be a potential first round pick. But for Charles Hood, most of the dream is already complete, and it was long before his son traveled to Indianapolis for the combine.
He beams about his son's accomplishments, but the praise never gets to football. He talks of the education that his son worked to receive. He recalls how Ziggy always did things the right way, never "joyriding around or doing that teenage stuff" which gets many young stars in trouble.
"He was always focused on where he wanted to get to," Charles Hood said.
On Thursday, when the contingent of MU players moves from the weight room to the team's indoor complex, that focus and Ziggy Hood's dominance moves with them. His 35.5-inch vertical jump was also a personal best, and would have put him in the top 10 of all defensive linemen at the combine. Another roar emerges from the black-and-gold-clad onlookers.
For the rest of the day Hood displays his elite speed and quickness for his position in a variety of agility drills. But eventually fatigue sets in. He fails to follow directions and makes an error during a drill run by a scout from the New Orleans Saints. The misstep is met with a smile from the scout. Hood has already wowed enough of the crowd for it to be nothing but a positive day. Tiny lapses matter much less than they did a few hours ago.
But they still matter for Ziggy Hood. As he crosses the line to finish the drill a clap of frustration rings from his nine-and-a-half-inch wide hands and around the facility. Where scouts and onlookers see a brief and probably insignificant misstep, he sees missed opportunity.
He doesn't plan on missing any others.
When asked how he feels about his ascension up the draft and his position as a possible first round pick Hood shakes his head and doesn't even allow himself to entertain the thought.
"Don't settle," Hood shoots back. "A lot of people are telling you the good news, but you can still fall flat on your face. Keep giving them a reason as to why you should go in the first round, keep working."
He then says that he will be back for the second Pro Day on March 19. He claims that he knows he has 36 reps in him somewhere.
Dad was right. Even great is never great enough.