INDIANAPOLIS — LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire ambled up the stage steps, turned to the podium and immediately cracked a wry grin. The microphone was set at a height too tall for his frame. Edwards-Helaire measured in at a hair over 5-foot-7 earlier this week.
After a few moments of wrestling with the stand, the microphone landed with a thud, as low as it could go. He chuckled again, eased back from the podium and awaited the first question.
The podium was not ready for Edwards-Helaire; Edwards-Helaire, however, was ready for the podium. He dominated the space, taking questions on his individual game, LSU’s historic offense, his development, his teammates and his goals. There wasn't a canned answer, a tired platitude beat into submission by his fellow prospects.
He was asked about how he got work in as a pass protector in the LSU offense and answered:
"Understanding displacement on our O-line and understanding who our O-line was working up to [was the No. 1 key]. When you watch film, 85 percent of our offense was five-man protection. But … it was something we did every day in practice."
He was then asked about what he learned from ex-Patriots running back Kevin Faulk, who was hired as a director of player development for the Tigers and was recently named the RBs coach, and said:
"The first thing when Kevin came on staff two years ago, I asked him about pass pro. It wasn’t about, ‘Hey, what’s up. How you doing?’ Ultimately it was, he walked in the door, I asked him about pass pro and we immediately got working on it because I understood his standpoint from it. I mean, he blocked for Tom Brady — one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the football league. So he played for 12 years, which ultimately he learned how to pass pro and I knew that I was going to have to do that on the next level. And that’s something I pride myself on also. As soon as he came in, we hopped on it."
When a reporter asked about his preparation and growth, especially as a one-year starting back, Edwards-Helaire said:
"This game is about mental reps. I was able to learn from Derrius Guice and Darrel Williams and ultimately Nick Brossette. Even at practice, they were critiquing me on things and they weren't even in the drill I was in. I kinda honed in on the things that I needed to work on from film study all the way in to in-game adjustments as something I pride myself on."
He insisted when asked for a common myth on his game, that he didn’t want to leave any questions:
"I feel like every question was answered this year. Every week it was always something, ‘Does he have breakaway speed?’ And then bust an 80-yard touchdown. ‘Can he make a guy miss?’ Made plenty of guys miss. ‘Is he going to show up in the 'Bama game?’ Ultimately, all the questions were answered, so I feel like my resume is all checked out.”
Eventually, the tougher questions gave way to a flurry of "Did you meet with Team X?" Reporters regrouped, wondering what else to ask Edwards-Helaire, what details they could glean from this wellspring of authentic perspective. He was then asked what kind of player a team would be getting with him.
As if his performance to that point had not yet made it clear, Edwards-Helaire responded:
"As a player, I'll say I'm exclusive. … I feel like everything I do is something that can't be matched. I feel like I'm kind of making my own category."
Edwards-Helaire was confident without boasting, engaging without effort, insightful without wandering into unclarity. Much like the player is seemingly good at everything, at times limitless in his anticipation and execution, Edwards-Helaire the person demonstrated NFL readiness in his preparation for this phase of the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine and his handling of the media. He was good at everything.
Edwards-Helaire had quote after quote that stuck with me; here's a final one. When asked about his route-running, which is characterized by sharp cuts and easy separation, Edwards-Helaire said:
"I feel like some things can be taught and some things come natural. For the most part, I feel like it was natural ability, but also being able to be coached on certain keys that will ultimately separate me from the crowd or separate myself from a player when I ran a route. [That] was something [Faulk] helped me on a lot. Little things that he learned from older guys from when he was being taught in the league and right now, man, it’s all kind of trickling down."
Some things can be taught and some things come naturally, and Edwards-Helaire's about as natural as it gets.