Zyon McCollum felt confident heading into the NFL Combine. He was putting up strong and consistent testing numbers in the weeks of preparation leading up. But on the last day of the combine when defensive backs were set to work out, he felt himself getting a little nervous. The Sam Houston cornerback talked to some mentors who helped calm his nerves. They told him to “own the moment.”
And that’s exactly what McCollum did.
He had one of the best CB performances in combine history, becoming just the fifth corner to earn a max-99 athleticism score since 2003, via Nex Gen Stats. Measuring in as a longer CB at 6-foot-2 and weighing 199 pounds, McCollum tested out of his mind:
- 40 – 4.33 seconds (No. 3 among CBs)
- Vertical – 39.5” (No. 2 among CBs)
- Broad Jump – 11’0″ (No. 1 among CBs)
- 3-Cone – 6.48 seconds (No. 1 of all positions)
- 20-yard Shuttle – 3.94 seconds (No. 1 of all positions)
“It was incredible, like a dream come true,” McCollum told HERO Sports. “To be in that position, enjoy a week with a bunch of really, really high-graded guys, it was a ton of fun. I made memories I’ll have for the rest of my life. Being able to compete, especially as an FCS player, with a spotlight on you, it was everything that I had dreamed for.”
McCollum said he felt really good about the off-field portion of the combine as well, like having formal and informal meetings with teams. While he met with a lot of team scouts at the Senior Bowl, the combine was an opportunity to talk to coaches. McCollum talked a lot of Xs and Os as coaches had him explain SHSU’s defense and zone versus man schemes. Coaches would also teach him parts of their defenses and have McCollum recite it back to them.
McCollum talked to several teams, but the ones he said stuck out the most were the Cowboys, Bengals, Colts, Raiders, and the Chargers.
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He has received even more attention after his combine performance. McCollum is set for some on-site visits after SHSU’s March 29 pro day as his draft stock has skyrocketed. Viewed by Draft Scout as a seventh-round projection at the start of the NFL Draft process in January, the scouting service now has McCollum going in the fourth round.
“There’s definitely more buzz around my name,” McCollum said. “Not only mine, but it’s spilling off into my brother’s [Tristin] name. Pro day is absolutely going to be lit up. It’s going to be really exciting not only for me but for my teammates who have been working really hard. And especially my twin brother who didn’t get an opportunity to show his athleticism at the combine. He’ll be able to do that at pro day. That buzz, we’re starting to feel it a lot more. I’m super grateful for it.”
The McCollum twins have been side-by-side throughout their football careers. From Galveston, Texas, the two were originally committed to Utah. They also held FBS offers from Tulane and Texas State, plus an offer from SHSU and several other FCS programs. Zyon had his own recruiting interest from Texas Tech, Texas, and Stanford, but the brothers were in unison on going to the same college. After decommitting from Utah late in the recruiting process, SHSU still had its offer waiting for them.
Zyon went on to be a five-year starter at cornerback for the Bearkats, a four-time All-Conference selection, a 2018 HERO Sports Sophomore All-American, and a multi-time FCS All-American in the 2021 spring and fall seasons. Tristin, a 6-foot-3 safety, was a four-year starter and two-time All-Conference selection.
The two are now training together in Frisco, Texas, the city where they won the 2021 spring FCS national championship. McCollum emerged on more NFL Draft radars during that spring season. He said he had some people in his ear during the offseason saying he should go to an FBS school for his final year of eligibility, but McCollum wanted to stay at SHSU with his brother.
McCollum said he expects Tristin to get more attention as an NFL prospect after his pro day.
“I’m not going to throw any numbers out there, but he’s going to be ready,” McCollum said. “I mean, he’s my twin brother. And he’s the older brother. He’s ready to compete with the numbers that I put up. He’s looking to turn heads.”
McCollum’s showing at the combine not only attracted more scouts to SHSU’s pro day, but it also concluded a successful week for the FCS, a subdivision that got plenty of shine in Indianapolis. Twenty-one former FCS players were in attendance and several tested among the best in their position group. Five prospects earned a max-99 athleticism score, three of which were FCS players — McCollum, North Dakota State wide receiver Christian Watson, and South Dakota State running back Pierre Strong Jr.
As someone who had FBS opportunities as a recruit and as a potential transfer, McCollum pointed out that the “if you’re good enough they will find you” saying is true.
“There were a ton of FCS guys at the combine,” McCollum said. “I knew everybody was going to test well because, in the FCS, the grind is a little bit different. You don’t get as much attention. You’re very humble throughout the entire process. And just playing against some guys like Christian Watson. Or seeing [SC State CB] Decobie Durant doing everything that he does. And [Northern Iowa OL] Trevor Penning. I mean, these guys are monsters. The logo has nothing to do with it. It’s who they are as people and who they are as athletes on the field. Not just my performance at the combine, but every FCS guy at the combine did phenomenal. And I think it’s about time people start looking at the FCS with a different light.”
McCollum is one of the highest FCS risers on NFL Draft boards. He solidified himself as a draft pick at the combine. While that thought has settled in, McCollum isn’t letting complacency also settle in, a mindset helped by having his brother alongside to push him and his FCS background of earning everything.
“To me, and how it’s been my entire life, the worst performance doesn’t define you and neither does your best,” McCollum said. “So I just have to keep on working and grinding.”
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