Pro Day offers last chance with NFL scouts

The University of Minnesota football team held its annual Pro Day at the team’s practice facility on Wednesday.

Pro Day offers last chance with NFL scouts

Michael Rietmulder

The University of Minnesota football team held its annual Pro Day at the teamâÄôs practice facility on Wednesday for players whose collegiate eligibility expired after this season and wanted a chance to impress NFL scouts. The drills mirror those conducted at the NFL Scouting Combine, including the 40-yard dash, bench press, vertical leap and other quickness drills. Gophers head coach Tim Brewster said the program has been getting more attention from the NFL, noting all 32 NFL teams were represented at WednesdayâÄôs event. For players like Eric Decker, Nate Triplett, Simoni Lawrence and Lee Campbell, who were at the combine, Pro Day can give them an opportunity to improve upon the scores they recorded there. Triplett said he wanted a chance to perform better in the speed drills, which he felt he did Wednesday. âÄúThe combine was interesting,âÄù Triplett said. âÄúI was pretty nervous for that one because thereâÄôs so much riding on just that one day.âÄù Decker, who was only able to perform the bench press because of a foot injury, also improved his combine score with 19 reps of 225 pounds, compared to 15 at the combine. Decker said he will undergo surgery Monday, and he expects to be âÄúready to goâÄù by June. Both Decker and Triplett said having so many of their teammates cheering them on made it easier to perform at Pro Day than at the combine. Players were particularly boisterous during the bench press, shouting words of encouragement to one another. âÄúWhen you got an environment like that, it definitely gets the adrenaline flowing a little bit more,âÄù Decker said. Members of the Minnesota Vikings, including head coach Brad Childress, made the trip from Eden Prairie to watch the 25 players workout. âÄúI come over more just to see some of the drill work and watch them do football-related movement,âÄù Childress said. âÄúTheir tape is their résumé and we always remember that, but itâÄôs always fun to see them on the hoof and moving around and see how they do with the other guys.âÄù Vikings Vice President of Player Personnel Rick Spielman, who was also on hand, said Pro days serve as a supplement to the combine and allow NFL staff to spend âÄúindividual time with the players.âÄù âÄúThis is just to kind of verify some of the things youâÄôve seen at the combine,âÄù Spielman said. âÄúItâÄôs just kind of like crossing your TâÄôs and dotting your IâÄôs as you go through the process.âÄù In some cases, players who performed well at the combine are reluctant to participate in some of the drills at Pro Day, fearing they may not score as highly. Lawrence, who opted not to participate in the vertical leap, said that although he wanted to perform each drill, his agent advised against it. His jump at the combine tied for the second highest among linebackers. However, since only four of the 25 players were invited to the combine, Pro Day is the only chance many players have to work out in front of NFL scouts. Brewster said that for these players, the event is especially important, and specifically mentioned Nick Tow-Arnett and Marcus Sherels as having standout performances, saying Sherels ran a sub-4.4 40-yard dash. âÄúI think that a number of these guys are going to get opportunities to be on a [NFL] roster this summer for training camp, and thatâÄôs all a young guy wants is an opportunity,âÄù Brewster said. Although most of the nationâÄôs elite college football players are invited to the combine, Childress said it is possible to discover NFL talent at Pro days. âÄúYouâÄôd be surprised,âÄù Childress said. âÄúThere are people that make your training camp roster and then find a way of having the will to compete âĦ sometimes those guys have a little extra heartbeat.âÄù Brewster, who has tried to rebuild a Gophers program that went 1-11 in 2007, said producing NFL players can aid the rebuilding process. âÄúI think itâÄôs really important,âÄù he said. âÄúI think itâÄôs indicative of the type of program youâÄôre building.âÄù In addition to the Gophers who work out during the UniversityâÄôs Pro Day, players from Minnesota State University-Mankato, the University of Northern Iowa and Concordia University-St. Paul also participated.