Mike Mayock to feature his Philly roots during NFL draft coverage

NFL Combine Football
NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock talks with reporters during a news conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis on Feb. 21, 2015.

At times during the three-day marathon telecast of the NFL draft, Mike Mayock will discuss Temple linebacker Haason Reddick's Camden roots, or he'll tell the story of how Villanova's Tanoh Kpassagnon was discovered at Wissahickon High School. Whenever he says "league," it will sound like "lig." If he asks for "wooder," only someone from the Philadelphia area might understand. And when the draft is finished, he won't hail a taxi to the airport but instead drive back to a home in Wayne.

There won't be any question about Mayock's roots.

"When I first got to Boston College as a freshman, they all thought I sounded like Rocky Balboa," Mayock said. "I'm proud of this area. I love being able to call out a local high school. I get a kick out of it."

Mayock, NFL Network's lead draft analyst, has become one of the faces of the NFL draft. But he's at heart a Philly guy who likes to talk football, who can chat with neighbors during a breakfast at Minella's Diner while seamlessly sharing stories about iconic Philadelphia football names such as Bert Bell, Dick Vermeil, Ron Jaworski, and Steve Sabol.

"When I think of Philly and I think of football, I think of people with a little bit of an edge," Mayock said. "And I'm talking about Temple. I'm talking about the fans. I'm talking about the passion. Those things are really important to Philadelphia. . . . I think I've got a little bit of an edge. I think most people in Philly have a little bit of edge. And I think that's natural in this area we grew up in."

>> Click here for more coverage of the 2017 NFL draft in Philadelphia

Mayock was raised in the Philadelphia area, went to high school at the Haverford School and now spends more than half the year in Florida and splits the rest of the time between Wayne and Ocean City. His father coached the offensive line at Penn. On Sundays as a kid, Mayock tagged along to his father's office. He peered through the windows of Weightman Hall to watch Eagles-Bears games at Franklin Field. He learned how to scout on 16 mm film with his father.

Mayock played football and baseball at Boston College, even missing his own draft selection in 1981's 10th round because he batted 4 for 5 in a baseball game against Harvard. He played two seasons with the New York Giants before going into commercial estate. He eventually tried broadcasting, taking no money to announce high school football games. Even as his profile has grown as a national analyst, Mayock's tried to keep a distance from being viewed as a coat-and-tie studio veteran.

"I don't view myself as any different than when I was doing football games on the radio at West Chester Henderson and Ridley, which is where I started," Mayock said. "What's important to me is I get the football right. The only difference being a 'national analyst' is there's more people critiquing you."

Mayock's less concerned with the national perception of his analysis than with the feedback he receives from coaches, general managers, and scouts. They'll disagree with him about an evaluation but in the next breath tell him they respect his opinion because he puts in the work.

Mayock takes particular pride at the scout-like work he puts into draft preparation. He has attended pro days for more than a decade, sharing drinks with other coaches and scouts the night before and catching another puddle-jumper from one small college town to the next for another night in a Courtyard hotel so those in the business know he's put in the time.

He talks like a scout on air. Listen to his terminology next weekend, and you'll hear phrases that aren't recited in sales meetings. A lineman with a "bubble butt" has a strong longer body that provides explosiveness. A "dancing bear" is a big lineman with the agility of a ballerina. A player who is "body beautiful" has a ripped physique. A quarterback who taps the football too long "burps the baby." When he broadcasted Notre Dame football games, he endured criticism that he was "too technical." Mayock tries to explain terms, but he also wants the viewing public to understand football better, and the best way he can do that is the way he learned.

"Almost everything I've said that's become a 'saying,' I didn't make them up," Mayock said. "I'm sitting with a group of guys, and we're talking about somebody, and 'bubble butt' comes up."

There have been draft hits and misses. He was bullish on Philip Rivers in 2004 even before some in the league were, and his exuberance for Carson Wentz last year came well before Wentz solidified himself as the Eagles' franchise quarterback. He was also too high on Blaine Gabbert and not high enough on Cam Newton in 2011, and what bothered him is he pushed Gabbert up through the pre-draft process and talked himself out of initial concerns.

Mayock considers draft weekend his Super Bowl. He needs to both evaluate and value players, with scouting opinions on each prospect while also understanding what each team needs and how players fit their schemes. It's the culmination of a Jan. 1 to May 1 sprint. He sets his foundation in the fall when he begins paying attention to the top rising seniors, fortifies those opinions during the college all-star game in January and knows all the prospects by the time the combine begins.

After the combine is a six-week stretch of pro days when he's barely home. He wants to say on air that an LSU safety ran a 4.38-second 40-yard dash on his stopwatch in Baton Rouge, La. - not that he read it in an article.

"I like to smell the grass," Mayock said. "I like to be around the coaches and scouts. I like to be around the players. I hate being in the studio."

He's on site at the draft, but this is the first time he'll spend all three days outside. Mayock first heard Philadelphia could host the draft at this time last year in Chicago. He wondered if the league would allow it because the Eagles didn't have a first-round pick. Howie Roseman solved that problem.

Mayock is now enthused about the draft being in his hometown. He looks forward to taking his staff out to dinner at a Philadelphia restaurant, hopes the weather is nice enough to spotlight the city, and appreciates that there's no flight after the draft.

But before he takes the summer in Ocean City, he needs a successful Super Bowl on his home turf. He's already talked to the producers about discussing Bell's influence in the NFL's growth and wants to make sure viewers around the country know the pride he takes in Philadelphia.

"If they don't have something formal planned, trust me, I'll have something informal planned," Mayock said. "I think it's important people understand the history and legacy of the NFL in this town."

>> Click here for more coverage of the 2017 NFL draft in Philadelphia

zberman@phillynews.com

@ZBerm www.philly.com/eaglesblog

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