Editor’s note: It’s only late February, and we’re already in the mood for football again. So we asked a projected top 15 pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, to take us inside his prep for the ongoing NFL Combine. Here are his thoughts.

What’s up, NFL fans? I’ve got the biggest “job interview” of my life this weekend at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. But I’m going to have a smile on my face the whole time because this is what you dream about, and it’ll be a blast for me. I’d rather be eating, breathing and playing football 12 hours a day than flipping burgers. It’s going to be intense, but I’m going to be myself and I’m confident I’ll be ready for whatever’s thrown at me. This is why I declared for the Draft—I felt it was time to step up my football career, take my talents and positive attitude to the NFL, and see how I measure up. I want to make my family, friends and fans proud.

If you want to separate yourself at the Draft, they say you need to be bigger, faster, stronger, more intelligent and more athletic.

So how did I prepare to get here? Mizzou played in the SEC for the first time and against some great competition, like eventual BCS champion Alabama, but we didn’t get the season we wanted. I felt I had a pretty solid year [editor’s note: Sheldon led all defensive tackles in the SEC with 75 tackles], so after my last game for Mizzou in November, I began planning for this weekend. First, I took some time off because I understand the importance of resting your body, so you can come back refreshed for the challenge. I did some light lifting and some running while home in St. Louis to stay in shape. But come the New Year, I headed to the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.

Who you callin’ yellow?

They do it right at the IMG Academy, which is a terrific facility, and there were some really big names for the Draft there with me, like Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel, plus quarterbacks Matt Barkley and Tyler Wilson…

If you want to separate yourself at the Draft, they say you need to be bigger, faster, stronger, more intelligent and more athletic. I went to the IMG Academy with good strength, speed and movement, but I sharpened up my overall technique, and got a better understanding of how NFL offenses operate.

Here’s a typical day down in Bradenton: We would wake up at 6 in the morning and complete 12 very intense hours of covering everything, six days a week. There’s no room for slackers down there. You’re working on Combine-specific movement training and weight training. Plus, they teach you little off-field tricks of the trade, like how to deal with the media. I enjoyed learning how to handle interviews. You’re taught to be yourself but maybe come off a little smoother in interviews. I’m a straightforward kind of guy—a what-you-see-is-what-you-get type—but you have to learn how to be professional with the media.

They also taught us about good nutrition. You learn to eat an NFL diet, which is a huge part of a professional football player’s life, and something that can make your career last longer. You learn to stay off the fried foods and eat well but right—no rich sauces on your steak or vegetables. They make sure you get into a routine, three meals a day. At dinner, we’d have five options for a main course—baked salmon, tilapia, steak, maybe baked-not-fried chicken, buffalo chicken. You had some tasty options, so it wasn’t like cafeteria food! If you needed to gain good weight, they’d give you extra portions.

It’ll be a lot less painful if you just hand that loaf over, bro.

They also set you up with vitamins, and stressed the importance of keeping hydrated. I put on a good 10 pounds, up to right around 300. The NFL scouts want to see you put on good weight but still be an explosive guy. With my 40-yard drills, I improved my 40 time by maybe a tenth of a second. I was happy with that because I’m so much stronger than I was.

We’ve been told the Combine is four days of non-stop activity, starting as soon as you arrive. Meeting teams, doing interviews, and if they like you enough they’ll come out to your college facility for Pro Day. We D-linemen are doing the 225-pound rep drills on Sunday, and the running drills on Monday. Everything’s at stake. It’s a chance to improve your position in the Draft. Personally, I just want to show them what I’ve got and display my strengths on and off the field.

I really don’t get nervous. If anything I’m anxious to get out there and perform. I’m very prepared for the biggest few days of my life. I’m confident with my training and my preparations, and I’m expecting a very good Combine out of myself. I enjoy my job, and I’m going to have some fun showing what I can do.

I’d like to thank the agents at CAA for recommending the IMG Academy. It was a really positive learning experience. Wish me well at the Combine and check in with me after the big event. Follow me on Twitter @godforshort. See you on the other side, and go Tigers!

As told to Ashley Jude Collie