As NFL draft's massive man in middle, T'Vondre Sweat is making big waves at combine

(Editor's note: Sweat weighed in at 366 pounds and ran a 5.27-second 40-yard dash on Thursday after this story was published.)

INDIANAPOLIS – T’Vondre Sweat, a massive young man with an engaging smile and quick wit, knew the big question was coming as he met with a couple dozen reporters on Wednesday during the NFL scouting combine.

There was no shame, no reason to hide – which the well-decorated University of Texas defensive tackle couldn’t do if he tried – from the topic.

But no, there was hardly a final answer.

How much is this big fella weighing?

"I weigh in tomorrow," Sweat said, alluding to the round of testing for D-linemen on Thursday. "So, everybody that wanna know, you’ll see tomorrow."

Sweat, who won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top interior lineman and was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, was listed at 6-4 and 362 pounds as he formed a dynamic duo with fellow defensive tackle Byron Murphy II in the middle of the Longhorns' defense last season.

Yet that was then. As the top draft prospects converged for the NFL’s annual meat market, the buzz suggested that Sweat could tip the scales at more than 380 pounds.

Thus, the guess-his-weight mystery.

"This past season, I played at 365," he said. "That’s where I’m comfortable at."

If he hits that mark, Sweat would still be the biggest player at the combine. He makes no apologies. He added pounds last year and it felt natural enough. As he discussed such weighty matters, he may have had a large presence, but he hardly appeared as overweight.

"You know how man is," Sweat maintained. "We’ve got to grow into our bodies. This is me, as ya’ll can see. I’m a big guy, a big frame. That’s just how it is. I just grew into my body, man."

Texas Longhorns defensive lineman T'Vondre Sweat (93) watches Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (9) before a snap during the Sugar Bowl College Football Playoff semifinals game at the Caesars Superdome on Monday, Jan. 1, 2024 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Texas Longhorns defensive lineman T'Vondre Sweat (93) watches Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (9) before a snap during the Sugar Bowl College Football Playoff semifinals game at the Caesars Superdome on Monday, Jan. 1, 2024 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Sweat, as you’d imagine, is used to his size being something of a calling card. When he grew up in Hunstville, Texas, excelling as a thumper on the basketball court on top of his football exploits, a family friend, “Miss Ebony,” as he revealed in an affectionate shout-out, nicknamed him “Loaf” during a basketball game.

"She was like, ‘Let’s go, Loaf!’" he recalled. "I’m like, all right. So, it’s been Loaf, Big Loaf, Meatloaf. Anything loaf."

Makes you wonder whether he enjoys putting away the meatloaf.

"I’m not a big fan," he said. "But I like the name."

Of course, as he’s met with pretty much every NFL team during the combine or at the Senior Bowl in January, questions about his weight have come up in every single visit.

As much as he’s used to it, Sweat also sounded like a man eager to add to the narrative. He planned on participating every drill at the combine and declared that he’s aiming to pull off a surprise.

"When I run this 40, I’m going to shock a lot of y’all," he promised.

What’s he expecting to run in the 40?

"A 4.4, 4.5," he said, prompting a chorus of laughs.

He’s certainly having fun with this, even against the serious backdrop of trying to secure high draft status. analyst Bucky Brooks ranks the wide-bodied run-stuffer as the third-best defensive tackle in the draft, behind Murphy and Johnny Newton of Illinois. Projected as a late first-round or second-round pick, Sweat fits the profile of a player who commands double-team blocks while freeing up opportunities for surrounding playmakers to hunt quarterbacks.

He knows what NFL teams will want to know: In carrying his weight, will he have the necessary level of conditioning to maintain his motor in the fourth quarter?

"A hundred percent, I can," Sweat said. "I mean, as you saw this past year, I did what I had to do. Y’all will see what I do at the next level."

When someone asked what helped in his process of growing into his frame, Sweat didn’t mince words.

"God," he said. "I’m just a big guy. A lot of people get scared of the numbers and all that, but when y’all see me move tomorrow, a lot of people will be like, ‘What about his numbers?’ It’s just God."

Still, Sweat acknowledges that it’s easy for him to gain weight. Staying active is crucial.

"I know myself and I know my body, and I know I can’t just sit around for weeks, or just a week," he said. "Because if I sit down for a week, I gain about 30 pounds."

Surely, even if Sweat solidifies his stock and wows teams during the draft process, the attached question will be about maintaining for the long haul. Consider two of the accomplished NFL defensive tackles that he’s admired over recent years: Ndamukong Suh and Fletcher Cox. Suh played 13 NFL seasons before sitting out in 2023. Cox just wrapped up his 12th season with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Similar staying power would be something to shoot for as Sweat launches his career. But first things first. Sweat, awards in tow, sounds pretty grounded in assessing what’s next.

"I’m just a day-to-day guy," he said. "I just do what I gotta do."

One pound at a time.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: T'Vondre Sweat is making huge waves as 2024 NFL draft's biggest player