Gophers display talents in front of NFL scouts at Minnesota’s Pro Day

Eleven Minnesota players performed for 22 NFL teams on Wednesday.

Kobe McCrary runs the ball in an NFL Pro Day drill at the Athletes Village indoor practice facility on Wednesday, March 28.

Jack Rodgers

Kobe McCrary runs the ball in an NFL Pro Day drill at the Athlete’s Village indoor practice facility on Wednesday, March 28.

by Jack Warrick

Illinois and Minnesota were the only two Big Ten teams with no players invited to the NFL combine. 

That meant senior Minnesota players who have NFL hopes had to impress on the school’s Pro Day.

Minnesota brought in scouts from 22 different NFL teams. The 11 Minnesota players who were featured ran drills inside the new indoor facility at Athletes Village Wednesday, the first Pro Day in Minnesota’s new athletics facility.

Linebacker Jonathan Celestin benched 225 pounds 27 times, ran the best 40-yard dash of the Gophers with a 4.70 and had a 32-1/2 inch vertical jump. 

Running back Kobe McCrary recorded 25 reps on the bench with a 36-inch vertical jump and a 4.75-second 40-yard dash. Defensive tackle Steven Richardson led the Gophers on the bench press with 31 reps. 

“I felt like I got snubbed a little bit, but I mean, I just used it as fuel,” Richardson said. “Instead of going there I had more weeks to train, so it ended up working out.”

McCrary’s 25 reps would have put him tied for sixth at his position in the 2018 NFL combine.

“I can provide a lot,” McCrary said. “[I’m] a bigger back. I run hard, physical. I can block, catch out the back field and I can also play special teams. So however they want to use me.”

Defensive back Adekunle Ayinde had the best broad jump of the group with a 10-foot jump. He was just behind Celestin in the 40-yard dash with a 4.71 time.

Ryan Santoso was the only special teams participant. He punted and kicked in front of the NFL scouts without doing the usual athletic drills and tests.

“I felt like I did pretty well,” Santoso said. “It’s time to get to the drawing board [to] correct some things again before the draft and stuff like that, but overall, it’s just a fun experience to be out here again and get to play football.”

Minnesota has had at least one player taken in the NFL draft since 2014. Defensive back Jalen Myrick was the only Gophers player drafted last season. Myrick, safety Damarius Travis and quarterback Mitch Leidner were invited to the NFL combine last year. 

Guard Vincent Calhoun, defensive tackle Merrick Jackson, defensive back Duke McGhee, defensive tackle Andrew Stelter, tight end Nate Wozniak and guard Garrison Wright also participated at the pro day.

“The film is always going to be the mainstay, what you’re really going to look at,” a scout for an NFL team said, who requested anonymity. “I mean, guys will show up at these pro days [and] it will make you go take a second look.”

The scout said Richardson and tight end Nate Wozniak had a good day.

Three players from colleges besides the University of Minnesota showed up to the Pro Day this year — wide receiver Evan Clark from St. John’s, offensive lineman Bryce Johnson from St. Cloud State and offensive lineman Jake Krause from Bemidji State.

The NFL Draft will take place from April 26-28 this year with seven drafting rounds and 224 total selections out of college.