Months of training for former Gophers’ football players and others from colleges in Minnesota led up to Wednesday’s pro day at the David and Janis Larson Football Performance Center.
Dozens of NFL scouts and members of the media gathered to watch the athletes bounce a barbell off their chests, jump as high and/or far as they could and sprint 40 yards as fast as possible.
“It’s one long interview. Everyone’s evaluating constantly, and you’ve got a lot of eyes on you, so you definitely just got to carry yourself with a lot of professionalism,” said former Gophers linebacker and NFL draft hopeful Blake Cashman. “At the end of the day, you’ve got to get a team to like you, and hopefully you’ll land on a roster.”
In the bench press section of the pro day, three former Gophers players took part. Defensive lineman Gary Moore had the most reps with 25, while linebacker Julian Huff had 19 and his defensive back identical twin brother Jacob Huff pushed out 16.
Jacob Huff ran an unofficial 40-yard dash time of 4.70, leading the Gophers in that section of the event on Wednesday. Jacob Huff said he trained in Texas while Julian Huff stayed in Minnesota, working a new job and training in his free time. The two combined for 249 tackles in their careers with the Gophers.
“First time being away from him, that was kind of rough,” said Jacob Huff. “But it was good for the long [run] because I learned a lot about myself and being away from him; I’m sure he got time to process what he wants to do and what he wants to be in life.”
Cashman and offensive lineman Donnell Greene, two senior players from the 2018 season who decided to sit out the Quick Lane Bowl to prepare for the NFL draft, were in attendance. They sat out the measurable portion of the event but participated in the drills that involved game scenarios like catching, blocking and moving around the field.
Cashman is predicted to go in the third round of the NFL Draft by a CBS Mock Draft and in the second round by USA Today’s Draft Wire. He attracted attention at the NFL Combine after posting an official 4.50 second 40-yard dash time at the NFL combine.
Kicker Emmit Carpenter was the only Gophers special teams player at the combine. Four-year starting long snapper Payton Jordahl was not at the pro day, deciding to move on from football after his career with the Gophers ended.
“He’s by far the best long snapper that I’ve ever encountered,” Carpenter said. “He’s chasing his passion outside of football, and I know he’s really happy doing that.”
Defensive backs Adekunle Ayinde and Duke McGhee, two alumni who finished their Gophers careers in 2017, were also in attendance. McGhee said he had been substitute teaching at his old high school, Cedar Grove, and landscaping in his home state of Georgia while preparing for the pro day. He didn’t participate in the events last year because of an injury.
“I looked at it like a job interview, and that I didn’t receive the answer ‘no,’ I just didn’t get the chance to interview,” said McGhee, who tallied 145 career tackles for the Gophers. “I was just keeping myself in shape, keeping my mind sharp, just being ready for the opportunity.”
The NFL Draft will take place April 25-27 in Nashville, Tennessee.