PHOENIX, ARIZ – On the eve of one of the biggest sporting events of the year, a marathon that lasts three days and is shrouded in mystery and smokescreens. Humboldt State offensive tackle and three-time All-American Alex Cappa prepares to settle in with friends and family before a life-changing pick is announced.
The humble giant, a long-haired Lumberjack, has beaten the odds and will spend the NFL Draft in Phoenix with four supporters: teammates Mick Johnson and Josh Hanson, his father and girlfriend. Cappa has been in focused solely on his Draft training and preparation since the end of the 2017 season, a year he capped with his fourth consecutive Great Northwest Athletic Conference Offensive Lineman of the Year Award.
Cappa has been training under the watchful eyes of former NFL center LeCharles Bentley at his O-Line Performance training club.
"It's been awesome because they do everything to get you ready for the Senior Bowl and Combine," said Cappa. "You are surrounded by great NFL offensive linemen. To be able to see what they are doing and why they are successful has been really beneficial."
Preparation for the NFL Draft has featured multiple stops for the Dublin, Calif., native. He was invited to compete in front of a national audience against elite competition at the Reese's Senior Bowl on Jan. 27 at Lad-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala. Cappa followed up that performance with a visit to Indianapolis for the NFL Combine held at Lucas Oil Stadium home of the Indianapolis Colts.
The Senior Bowl, an invitation-only event that is available only to graduating seniors across all levels of college football, gave Cappa a chance to prove he could play with the best.
"The Senior Bowl was really good," explained Cappa. "It was fun to meet with NFL teams and compete against guys from other schools. The whole thing was good. It was a fun week. It was fun to play against everybody and show that I could play against anybody."
The pressure of competing in front of NFL coaches, scouts and general managers didn't phase the lineman.
"Everybody knows that there are eyes on you at all times whether you are in the hotel room or on the field you are being evaluated all the time," said Cappa. "It's a really competitive atmosphere, but at the same time it's really friendly. Guys understand that everyone is there to better themselves."
Next up for Cappa was a rigorous job interview for NFL teams at the scouting combine. At the combine, he was weighed, measured, tested and interviewed by future employers who were setting their respective Draft boards.
"It was cool being there," said Cappa. "You watch it on tv for years. It was a long week, but a good experience."
Under the microscope of NFL teams, Cappa went through numerous interviews with scouts, coaches and front office staff. Memorable questions aimed at Cappa included, "How long can you hold your eyes open?" and "Do you know who Rachel Maddow is?"
"They asked a bunch of random questions just trying to throw you off while seeing if you can stay focused," said Cappa. "It is repetitive. A lot of it is just giving your backstory, where did you come from how did you end up at that school, how have you changed, how have you gotten better, what you had to do to overcome obstacles to get to where you are."
The self-proclaimed Oakland Raiders fan, who has dreamed of suiting up in the Silver and Black since childhood, has visited four NFL teams. Cappa has traveled to the Minnesota Vikings, New York Jets, LA Rams and his childhood favorite Raiders during the pre-draft process.
Unsurprising to those that know the 6-7 golden goliath, Cappa pays no attention to mock drafts or expert prognosticators. He is just focused on the grind and enjoying every moment leading up to hearing his name called. After five years on the North Coast, Cappa is waiting to learn where his new home will be.
"It's really hard to tell (which teams are interested in drafting me), some teams want to keep it under wraps," said Cappa. "One thing people don't know is how a lot of players don't know as much as you think going into the draft. They think we have the inside scoop, but we really don't."
Regardless of this uncertainty, Cappa recognizes that his Humboldt State experience got him to the doorstep of his NFL future.
"I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Drew Petersen That's No. 1," said Cappa. "He got me physically ready, and at the Senior Bowl I was more physically prepared than guys at the huge schools. We don't have all the luxuries at Humboldt that they have at the other schools, which helps you really grow as a person. Guys at big schools get pampered in a way that we don't at Humboldt, and it definitely gives you a different perspective on the whole process."
With another change of perspective on the horizon, Lumberjack fans eagerly anticipate learning where Cappa will land. No matter the destination, the North Coast will be rooting for its adopted son as he begins the next chapter of his playing career this weekend.