INDIANAPOLIS — How does one become a social media sensation, a sculpted specimen worthy of being a mythological deity and among the buzziest players at the NFL scouting combine?
Easy … just give up strawberry milk.
OK, maybe there’s a bit more to the ascent of Ole Miss’ D. K. Metcalf, but try explaining the sudden prominence of an oft-injured player who was never better than the Rebels’ third-most productive receiver yet is suddenly considered a likely first-round draft pick.
Start with that photo on Twitter, the one featuring Metcalf’s massive musculature and incredible six-pack that eventually led to an erroneous report from NFL Media that he had an unbelievably low 1.6 percent body fat.
Metcalf corrected the record Friday at his combine interview with reporters: He’s actually a much softer 1.9 percent.
“I didn’t think it was going to explode like that,” Metcalf said of the viral post of him alongside college teammate and fellow draft prospect A.J. Brown.
“A lot of people hit me up, ‘what’s your workout plan’ and I’m like, ‘I’m just training for the combine.’ “
Naturally, there have been some doubters.
“There’s no Photoshop in that picture,” said Metcalf. “I know the work I put in, so I’m not worried about what other people are gonna say.”
But there’s a legion of believers that’s quickly growing, especially among the NFL crowd that Metcalf is looking to impress.
“He looked like Jim Brown. I mean he’s the biggest wideout I’ve ever seen, and you got to ask yourself, ‘Who’s tackling this guy?’ ” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said this week.
“So, if you’re a 179-pound corner, and you’re tackling a 235-pound back, or a 235-pound wideout or a tight end you’ve got to ask yourself, ‘Is this what I want to do?’”
Metcalf is obviously a physical specimen, measuring 6-3 and 228 pounds and posting 27 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press as he continued burnishing his combine résumé. He expects to shock people further when he runs the 40-yard dash Saturday morning.
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Injuries to his foot and neck limited Metcalf’s production in college, where he never caught more than 40 passes in a season. But he was cleared for full contact on Jan. 22, and the son of former Chicago Bears guard Terrence Metcalf now believes he’s ready to reach his full potential.
“I see myself as the best receiver in this draft, because I’m a competitor and I’m going to compete every day,” said Metcalf, who models his game after Julio Jones and Calvin Johnson and says there are no so-called 50-50 balls when passes are thrown to him.
“Ninety-nine-one balls I call them. The 1 percent I’m not coming down with it, it may be a bad ball by the quarterback.”
The Browns, Raiders, 49ers, Redskins, Seahawks are among teams Metcalf has already met with, and interest seems likely to grow.
Still, the hype seems largely rooted in that post-workout photo at EXOS, where he’s been training.
“At Ole Miss, we ate however we wanted to,” he said, lamenting having to relinquish that beloved strawberry milk. “At EXOS they really cut down on bad foods for you, like high sugar, high carbs, and they really honed in on proteins and vegetables and all of that.”
Metcalf isn’t concerned about getting too big or flaming out like David Boston, a first-round pick of the Cardinals in 1999 whose weightlifting eventually became a detriment.
“They haven’t met me yet,” said Metcalf. “They haven’t seen ‘too big’ in seeing what I can do on the field. … So, you know, they can compare me to other big receivers that have been unsuccessful, but like I say, they haven’t seen D.K. Metcalf.”
But will he see any more strawberry milk?
“Gotta give it up,” Metcalf grinned.
Follow Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis