Inside linebacker Zach Cunningham and offensive lineman Will Holden, veteran standouts on Vanderbilt's 2016 Camping World Independence Bowl squad, have accepted invitations to participate in the NFL Combine scheduled March 1-5 in Indianapolis, the league announced today.
Cunningham, who swept nearly every first team All-American honor last year, and Holden, a three-year starting offensive tackle, will follow in the footsteps of 2016 participant Stephen Weatherly and 16 other Commodore standouts who have appeared at the combine in the last decade.
Four Commodores is the most invited to the Combine in any given year since 2000. It happened most recently in 2014 when cornerback Andre Hal, offensive lineman Wesley Johnson, safety Kenny Ladler and wide receiver Jordan Matthews participated.
The Combine annually spotlights the talents of more than 300 top draft-eligible prospects to coaches, general managers, scouts and talent evaluators representing all 32 NFL teams. Participating players are put through three days of activities ranging from official measurements, medical examinations and individual interviews to on-field drills and an array of timing, agility and strength tests.
Holden, from Green Cove Springs, Fla., earned 35 career starts: 25 at left tackle as a junior and senior, and 10 at right tackle as a sophomore. After his Vanderbilt career concluded, Holden impressed in appearances at the East-West Shrine Bowl and Reese’s Senior Bowl.
As a senior, Holden earned second team All-SEC recognition after registering nearly 30 pancake blocks while facing some of the nation’s top defensive ends. He also earned SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week honors in late November for his blocking performance in Vanderbilt’s impressive 38-17 victory over Ole Miss.
Cunningham became one of the most honored players in Vanderbilt gridiron history during the 2016 season. After leading the SEC with 125 tackles and ranking among national leaders with 76 solo tackles and 16.5 tackles for loss, Cunningham was a consensus First Team All-American, earning recognition from the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA), Associated Press (AP), American Football Coaches Association (AFCA), Walter Camp Foundation, ESPN, Sports Illustrated, CBS Sports, The Sporting News and USA Today.
Cunningham, who also swept All-SEC honors in back-to-back seasons, was a two-time recipient of SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors this year, and was unanimously named National Defensive Player of the Week in mid-October after a remarkable 19-tackle effort in Vanderbilt’s 17-16 win at Georgia.
While Cunningham and Holden prepare for the Combine, at least nine more seniors from the 2016 squad are preparing for Vanderbilt Pro Day activities on March 16. Likely pro day participants in addition to Cunningham and Holden are defensive linemen Torey Agee, Adam Butler and Nehemiah Mitchell, offensive linemen Barrett Gouger and Andrew Jelks, linebacker Ja’karri Thomas, cornerback Torren McGaster, receiver Latevius Rayford and receiver/kick returner Darrius Sims.
Combine Schedule for Cunningham, Holden
Holden will be among the first Combine participants. Joining other offensive linemen, tight ends and specialists, Holden's official measurement and several one-on-one interviews with teams is scheduled March 1, followed by psychological testing, media interviews and the first physical test - bench press repetition of 225 pounds - coming on March 2. He will conclude with numerous speed, agility and position drills on March 3.
Cunningham’s group of participants – linebackers and defensive linemen – will start March 2, and conclude with an on-field workout March 5.
List of Vanderbilt Players at NFL Combine Since 2000
2017 Zach Cunningham (LB), Will Holden (OL)
2016 Stephen Weatherly (LB/DE)
2014 Andre Hal (CB), Wesley Johnson (OL), Kenny Ladler (safety), Jordan Matthews (WR)
2013 Zac Stacy (RB)
2012 Casey Hayward (CB), Sean Richardson (safety)
2010 Myron Lewis (CB), Thomas Welch (OL)
2009 D.J. Moore (CB)
2008 Earl Bennett (WR), Curtis Gatewood (DE/LB), Jonathan Goff (LB), Chris Williams (OL)
2006 Jay Cutler (QB)
2005 Jovan Haye (DL), Justin Geisinger (OL)
2003 Hunter Hillenmeyer (LB)
2002 Lew Thomas (RB), Greg Zolman (QB)
2001 Elliott Carson (TE), Matt Stewart (LB), Jimmy Williams (CB), Jamie Winborn (LB)