Tomlinson finds motivation in pre-draft predictions

As an Indianapolis 500 winner and IndyCar Series champion, Ryan Hunter-Reay is used to being comfortably in control of his car, but last Wednesday, his passenger, former University of Alabama defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson, made him nervous.

Tomlinson wasn’t exactly sitting in the vehicle when the two putzed around UA’s campus. Rather, he was on top of it because his 6-foot-3, 310-pound frame couldn’t fit.

“The IndyCar was kind of small for me. I’ll stick to football,” the 2017 NFL Draft prospect said. “A lot of teams like my size. They say I can either gain weight or lose weight or just stay the same because I’m pretty quick at what I am now.”

From visiting teams to scheduling workouts, Tomlinson hasn’t had much time to participate in outside activities like the one he did with Hunter-Reay. Tomlinson has ventured out to see the Arizona Cardinals and the Atlanta Falcons. Other teams have also worked him out.

As a McDonaugh, Ga., native, Tomlinson grew up wanting to play for Atlanta, but now that’s a thought of the past. He’s keeping his mind open to any team and just enjoying the process.

“Whoever gives me the opportunity to put my hand in the dirt again, I’ll be happy,” Tomlinson said.

It was ingrained into Tomlinson while he was at Alabama to not listen to the media. That helps now as people start to gossip about what draft round Tomlinson will go in. He tries to steer clear of the rumor mill.

Except, not everyone’s predictions satisfy Tomlinson. He’s further down in the listings and not consistently considered a premier, first-round pick at his position.

“That’s a big motivating factor because I feel like I’m just as good as any other defensive lineman out there, Tomlinson said. “I feel like I just have to show it. At the next level, I’ll continue to show it, and I’ll continue to prove myself day in and day out.”

He did that at UA. Tomlinson flew under the radar for the most part, but he had a standout senior season, collecting 62 tackles, three sacks, seven quarterback hurries and four pass breakups.

Unlike former Crimson Tide teammates Jonathan Allen and Cam Robinson, when Thursday rolls around, Tomlinson will be back home rather than in Philadelphia. He’ll watch the draft unfold with his family. Every prospect’s fate will be decided come Saturday night.

There’s not much else Tomlinson can do at this point. He has shown his abilities. So now he’s beginning to build a platform. With at least eight local schools in attendance, the IndyCar ride-along promoted math and science education.

“I like to always give back to younger kids and younger students — the whole world for the most part — as much as I can,” said Tomlinson, who graduated from UA with two undergraduate degrees. “Because they’re our future, and you have to motivate them to become better, so they can be the great people they’re supposed to be in the future.”