Tuskegee safety William Buford was one of several players who stood out at the NFL's Chicago regional combine this past Sunday at the Bears' Walter Payton Center.
But he's stood out before.
Buford, despite being from a relatively small college compared to some Division I programs, did that at the Raycom All-Star Classic in January.
"The game is played the same way, whether it's a small school or big school," Buford said. "The biggest thing was coming from a small school and being able to hold my own with the LSUs, the Notre Dames, the Alabamas.
"It gives me a mindset -- which was already there -- of being able to compete on a high level. Not necessarily playing for those schools, but still playing at a high level at a high speed. Being around those guys, it just opened your eyes up to the everyday life of somebody that's at a big school.
"The coaches [at the All-Star game], they encourage you to compete. They saw the fight coming from a small-school guy."
Buford felt he left an impression and did catch the attention of some scouts. He met with scouts from the Packers, Jets, Cowboys and Texans, while taking part in everything for the Raycom game.
"I said, 'You're not here just to play around. You're here for serious business.' And I took that [mindset] in everyday," Buford said. "I think guys respected that and saw that. And actually it pushes them to be better, which pushes me to be better. It brings out the competition in everybody."
Taking part in the Chicago regional combine -- which included 275 players from all levels -- was the next step for Buford to stay on the radar for the teams he's met with and to land on others'.
"It was great timing coming from my pro day on March 5," he said. "Our field was rained on and soggy."
There are 13 regional combines for position players and one super-regional combine in Dallas (April 7) this year. In 2012, there were 69 players who attended either a regional combine or the super-regional and were on NFL rosters heading into training camp.
The Bears are one team who have found players at regional combines. Wide receiver Joe Anderson impressed the Bears at one in Houston in 2012 and was signed to the practice squad. Anderson then joined the Bears' active roster in December, playing on special teams for three games.
"I'm open to play ball wherever," said Buford, who also plays baseball and is majoring in chemical engineering. "Growing up, I come from a small high school and you played wherever you're needed. So going to college, it was kind of the same mindset, but you have guys who are all good in college so you kind of get stuck at one position.
"But as an athlete you can find yourself on special teams on the field in different situations. I'm open to playing wherever. I just want to be on the field."
Buford was a first-team All-SIAC selection at Tuskegee in 2012, finishing with 58 tackles, five interceptions, 10 passes defended and three interception returns for touchdowns.
It also helps Buford that Tuskegee has produced NFL players before.
Frank Walker, a defensive back, spent nine seasons in the NFL, playing for the Giants, Ravens, Packers, Vikings and Cowboys (in 2011). The Bears drafted cornerback Roosevelt Williams out of Tuskegee in the third round in 2002.
And there have been plenty of others too. Buford, of course, wants to join them.
"They come back regularly and give advice here and there," said Buford, specifically naming Walker and defensive back Terrance Stringer. "We talk about the game in general, and we talk about life after football and during football.
"We talk about different things that you can do to always get better."