NFL Scouting Combine week has begun as players, agents and teams start to arrive in Indianapolis for a busy week of prospect evaluation both on and off the field at Lucas Oil Stadium.

For Kauai native and Saint Louis alumnus Nick Herbig, it serves as the biggest week in his professional career since he announced his intention to declare for the 2023 NFL Draft on Dec. 10, 2022.

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In declaring for the draft, Herbig gave up the rest of his college eligibility at the University of Wisconsin, where he was a three-year starter at outside linebacker. He’s just one of two players with Hawaii ties at this year’s combine, joining Princeton receiver and Punahou alumnus Andrei Iosivas.

“I really leaned a lot on my faith and my family,” Herbig told KHON2 of his decision to declare for the draft. “There’s a lot going into consideration, but I really leaned on my brothers, my parents, a bunch of older mentors that I’ve gained over the past few years. I reached out to a lot of people that I trust and I thought would give me some good guidance and after talking over it, we decided that it would be best for me to declare for the draft.

“All my boys back at Wisconsin, they love me, I love them. They’re all happy for me. Obviously, they wanted me to play another season with them but they all understood that at some point, I gotta do what’s best for me and my career. My coaches supported me through this process, so I couldn’t be happier.”

Herbig, who was born and raised on Kauai, says “everything was a competition” in his childhood between his brothers, Nate and Jake, and his father, Bruce.

“Everything we did, there was gonna be a winner and there was gonna be a loser. There was no participation trophies and if you’re second place, you’re the first loser,” Herbig recalled. “That’s kind of how we grew up and we were gonna win in everything we did. I think a lot of that is why I am the way I am today.”

Herbig moved to Oahu prior to his freshman year of high school and had an accomplished prep football career at Saint Louis, where he was a three-time state champion and consensus Hawaii defensive player of the year as a senior in 2019.

At the tail end of a 38-game winning streak that spanned three seasons for the Crusaders, Herbig was viewed as the team’s alpha, a true leader for a squad that was ranked as high as No. 5 nationally.

After receiving over a dozen scholarship offers from Power Five schools, Herbig signed with Wisconsin and enrolled early in January 2020.

His time in Madison had certainly its moments of turbulence. The Badgers played just seven games in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, going 4-3. Then in 2022, Wisconsin fired head coach Paul Chryst midway through his eighth year at the school.

“The game of football, I think that’s why it’s so special — it teaches you life lessons that you can apply, not just in sports but in everyday life. I definitely think my college experience was crazy. It was like a rollercoaster, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Herbig said. “I enjoyed every second of my time at Wisconsin. The relationships I built, the bonds I made, the people I met, the connections I was able to come across, it’s a special place. Wisconsin is always gonna be close to my heart, a piece of me, a part of my journey, and I’m thankful that I was able to be a Badger.”

Through all the adversity, Herbig continued to prove himself as a player and a prospect, racking up first team All-Big Ten Conference honors and a slew of All-America honors at linebacker in 2022, leading the country with an average of one sack per game. He enjoyed his time at Wisconsin so much that he had a hand in recruiting a pair of former Saint Louis teammates in safety Kamo’i Latu and receiver Trech Kekahuna.

Herbig’s constant improvement can be attributed to lessons from his brother Nate, who also turned pro after playing three years of college football at Stanford and enjoyed a breakout season as a guard with the New York Jets in 2022. Nick has accompanied Nate at Lane Johnson’s ‘Bro Barn’ in New Jersey during offseason workouts.

“I remember my brother told me a quote: You’re either getting better or worse every day, you never stay the same. I kind of live by that. I want to get better every day, because if I’m not getting better, I’m getting worse,” Nick Herbig says. “I would say that I’ve gotten better over my years, obviously just playing with more maturity, playing in more games, playing with more experience, learning new things. A lot of that comes from my oldest brother. He’s really been my backbone throughout this entire process, my entire career, just bringing me up in the summers to train with Lane and Gabe (Rangel) in the Bro Barn, just little stuff like that. I’m just blessed and fortunate to have someone like that in my life because a lot of people don’t. I’m so glad I do because he’s able to show me a path and kind of a blueprint for me.”

Just as Nate served as a role model to Nick, the younger Herbig hopes to be a positive influence to youngsters who hope to follow a similar path. In a media class Nick took at Wisconsin, he started an Instagram page called @herbiegives, where he aims to give advice to those looking for inspiration. He’s continued running the page since, as the account features posts from both Nick and Nate Herbig encouraging kids to work hard in the classroom and in their respective communities, as well as insight on what it takes to play sports collegiately.

“I know my mom and dad did a lot for me and my brothers but there’s a lot of kids who don’t have that on Kauai because it’s just a small island and there’s not as much as I would say, Oahu,” Nick Herbig said. “It really started as that but I really want to help everyone in Hawaii. It kind of branched out to, OK, now I just want to help kids in general, athletes in general trying to make it to the next level. My main focus was for people who didn’t have guidance or people who needed a role model to look at because I had one in my brother, I was fortunate for that. But I wanted to be that role model for kids who don’t have one. I’d like to be more active on it but it’s been kind of a crazy year so it’s kind of tough but I’m definitely looking forward to revamping that Instagram, kind of being more active on it.”

Herbig is currently in Indianapolis, where team interviews for defensive lineman and linebackers began on Monday. While measurements and on-field workouts begin for Herbig on Thursday, the week will also feature other crucial activities such as medical examinations, meetings with the NFLPA and media interviews. Herbig wants it known that whoever lands him is getting all of him.

“They’re just gonna get somebody who’s gonna work hard every day,” he said. “I’m a team player, I’m gonna work hard and I’m gonna do what’s asked of me, whether that’s punt a ball, kick a field goal, make a tackle, catch a pass, whatever the team needs me to do. I’m a team player and I’m gonna work hard and I’m gonna love my teammates so I’m excited.”

When Herbig takes the field for his future NFL team, he’ll be representing his island, his high school and his state.

“I have all of them tatted on me. That’s everything to me. That’s where I come from. A lot of people don’t understand the pride we have coming from Hawaii,” Herbig said. “We’re a small group of islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean just trying to make our dreams come true. A lot of the time, we don’t have the resources, we don’t have things like how they do in the mainland. Just being where I came from, I just feel blessed that my parents and everyone in my family sacrificed most of their life to get me here. They put in a lot of time, money, blood, sweat and tears into me just to see me live out my dreams. I just have so much pride being from Hawaii, I’m gonna rep that ‘til the day I die. That’s gonna be on my sleeve, on my shoulder, that’s gonna be everything I’m repping until the day I die. I’m a Hawaii boy.

“Shoutout to all my boys back home, especially those who are doubting themselves and don’t know if stuff like this is possible, just bet on yourself, keep working hard and trust the process.”

Current projections for Herbig have him going anywhere from rounds 2 to 5. The coming days are crucial for Herbig as he aims to up his draft stock, but he hopes it’s just the start of a relationship between him and a league he wants to be a part of for a long time.