HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Nearly a year ago, after running a quarterback-best 4.52 forty-yard dash at the 2015 NFL Combine, former Saint Louis School quarterback Marcus Mariota became the highest-drafted Hawaii-born player in NFL history.
With a solid performance at this year's combine, defensive lineman DeForest Buckner -- a Punahou School alumnus and a teammate of Mariota's at Oregon -- could challenge him for that title.
NFL Draft experts, including ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr., say Buckner is a virtual lock to be taken with one of the first five picks in April's draft. Mike Mayock, the NFL Network's draft expert, says Buckner has the potential to be an all-time great.
"He's nasty, he's tough, he's powerful, he's got a little Reggie White jump move that's awesome," Mayock said of Buckner on the Rich Eisen Show earlier this week. "8 to 10 years from now, I think he'll be one of the guys we'll be looking back and that he'll be in the conversation as the best defensive player to come out of this draft."
With all the hype surrounding his draft stock, you'd think Buckner would allow himself a moment to imagine life as the talking-heads have projected. Not so, he says.
"I'm really not focused on imagining things right now," Buckner told Hawaii News Now earlier this week. "I'm just trying to put myself in the best position."
For Buckner, that position can be found this week in Indianapolis, at the NFL Combine. It's the annual prospect evaluation workout that features scouts from all 32 NFL teams, for which all invited prospects, Buckner included, have been working relentlessly.
"It's like a 24/7 grind, really" Buckner said. "Getting ready for the combine. Just working out all the time, trying to eat right, it's a whole different lifestyle."
On Wednesday, draft prospects began arriving in Indianapolis to be weighed, measured, and interviewed, all standard procedural aspects for prospects attending the event. On Friday, they'll begin workouts; bench presses, cone drills and the 40 yard dash, the test Buckner says he's putting the most effort into.
"It's the start to my 40, really, that I'm focusing on. All the other drills, I'm doing really good at. I'm just trying to get down into the 4.9's," said Buckner, referencing his target time for the most popular, and scrutinized, combine drill.
Buckner won't workout until Sunday, when defensive lineman and linebackers are scheduled to take the field at Lucas Oil Stadium. But at 6'7" and 285 pounds, a 40-yard dash time like the one Buckner has been working for could cement his position near the top of April's NFL Draft, even though he stresses that he isn't looking that far ahead.
"The draft can go any way," Buckner says. "It depends on what the team needs, and I'm just really trying to get myself into the best position to be drafted as high as I can."