NFL: Combine

The 2020 NFL Scouting Combine is here and players are showing off their speed, agility and strength in Indianapolis, Indiana with the many tests that come with the pre-draft meeting. How a player looks at the combine is not always a reflection of how they will look when game day arrives, though some performances are just too good to ignore.

Throughout the years, players have showed up to impress scouts, coaches and the media with what they can do, in hopes of increasing their draft chances or getting picked higher than expected. 

This is the time for players to shine one last time before receiving a hat from the team who selects them and a handshake from commissioner Roger Goodell, and some shine more than others. 

Here is a look at the best bench press and vertical jump performances in combine history:

Bench press records:

  • Justin Ernest, 51 reps, 1999

Justin Ernest technically holds the record, as he did 51 repetitions (225 pounds) at the 1999 combine, though number two on the list was considered the record-breaker when he recorded 49 in 2011. 

Ernest was a defensive tackle out of Eastern Kentucky, though his strength was not enough to get a call from a team on Draft Day. Due to injury, Ernest went undrafted and went on to play with the New Orleans Saints for one season. He was listed at 6-foot-3, 284 pounds. 

When defensive tackle Stephen Paea hit 49 reps in 2011, his performance was considered a record-breaker. The DT out of Oregon State went in the second round of the draft, taken by the Chicago Bears with the 53rd overall pick.

He went on to play for the Washington Redskins, Cleveland Browns and ended his career in 2017 with the Dallas Cowboys. In the league, Paea recorded 129 tackles, 14 sacks and forced three fumbles.

  • Leif Larsen, 45 reps, 2000

The defensive tackle from University of Texas at El Paso had the second-best bench press performance on record at the time, though his obvious strength did not greatly impact his draft number. He was taken 194th overall in the sixth round of the 2000 draft by the Buffalo Bills. The Norway native only played two seasons in the league, retiring from football to pursue a boxing career. While with the Bills, Larsen had 11 tackles and two sacks.

  • Mike Kudla, 45 reps, 2006 

The Ohio State Buckeye won a national championship his freshman year and entered the NFL Combine ready to impress. His 45 reps tied a record for most since 2000 at the time, though he went undrafted. He signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers as an undrafted rookie and had to bow out of the league due to injury. Kudla died suddenly in 2018 at the age of 34. 

Offensive lineman Mitch Petrus showed off his strength ahead of the 2010 draft, coming up with 45 reps. The Arkansas alum was taken by the New York Giants in the fifth round with the 147th overall pick. The season following his rookie year with the Giants, he got a Super Bowl ring, after New York defeated the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI. He made in appearance in all four of their playoff games.

In 2012, Petrus joined the team he just defeated, though only for a month. He ended his football career with the Tennessee Titans, after they claimed him off waivers from the Patriots in 2012. Petrus died from heatstroke in 2019 at 32 years old.

Vertical jump records:

The numbers below are from the national combine in Indianapolis, though Willie Creear, a 5-foot-10 cornerback from Eastern Michigan, hit 47 inches at a regional rombine with the Denver Broncos in 2015.

  • Gerald Sensabaugh, 46 inches, 2005

The 6-foot-1 safety out of the North Carolina has the highest recorded vertical jump in Combine history at 46 inches. He was taken in the fifth round of the 2005 draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars. He spent the 2005-2008 seasons in Jacksonville before joining the Cowboys from 2009-2012. During his time in the NFL he had 411 tackles, two sacks, four forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries and 14 interceptions.

The 6-foot-3 Penn State linebacker came close to breaking Sensabaugh's record but missed it by that much. He went undrafted in 2005 and signed with the Giants, but was released before the season began. After spending time with the BC Lions in the Canadian Football LEague, he jumped back into the NFL, playing with the Miami Dolphins from 2009-2018 and the Titans, where he currently is, starting in 2019.

He is a five-time Pro Bowler, was first-team All-Pro in 2012, was second-team in 2010, 2014 and 2016 and is part of the 100 Sacks Club with 100.5 total. Wake has 364 total tackles, 22 forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and one interception. 

  • Chris Chambers, 45 inches, 2001

Chris Chambers was the record-holder at the time of his jump, which totaled 45 inches in 2001. The 5-foot-11 wide receiver from Wisconsin was taken 52nd overall in the second round by the Miami Dolphins, with whom he played from 2001-2007 and where he was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2005. He then went on to play for the then-San Diego Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs. Chambers had 540 receptions for 7,648 yards with 58 receiving touchdowns during his time in the league.

  • Chris McKenzie, 45 inches, 2005

Cornerback Chris McKenzie was only 5-foot-9, but was able to reach 45 inches in his vertical jump at the 2005 NFL Scouting Combine. The Arizona State University alum went undrafted, but joined the Houston Texans were he spent the 2005 and 2006 NFL seasons. He spent most of his professional career with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Canadian Football League. 

  • Donald Washington, 45 inches, 2009

Cornerback Donald Washington is the only one on the list that is considered recent history by the NFL (2006). The 6-foot cornerback out of Ohio State was taken in the fourth round by the Chiefs, the only NFL team he was ever with during his NFL career from 2009 to 2011