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UMN football hosts annual Pro Day, Vikings personnel present

Jordan Howden, Thomas Rush and Matthew Trickett made themselves known after impressive performances in front of a gallery of professional scouts.
Defensive back Howden stood out when he improved six inches in the vertical challenger during Wednesdays Pro Day.
Image by Jasmin Kemp
Defensive back Howden stood out when he improved six inches in the vertical challenger during Wednesday’s Pro Day.

University of Minnesota football opened its practice facility’s doors for its annual Pro Day on Wednesday. Scouts, coaches and media watched as a select group of veteran Gophers showcased their athleticism ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft.

Ten Gophers were present at this year’s event. Chuck Filiaga, Axel Ruschmeyer, John Michael Schmitz, Mohamed Ibrahim and Tanner Morgan represented Minnesota’s offense, while Jordan Howden, Thomas Rush, Terell Smith and Mariano Sori-Marin represented the defense. Matthew Trickett was the team’s lone special teamer to participate.

The day began with conversations between scouts and players on the main floor echoing throughout the training room. At 9 a.m. sharp, conversations came to a halt as a Minnesota staff member called for the players to weigh in.

One of the bigger questions heading into today was on Schmitz’s weight. Throughout last season, his playing weight was listed at 320 pounds; at the NFL Combine, that number dropped to 301. Schmitz was one of the first to step on the scale and, according to the Minnesota staff member’s reading, appeared to have gained a few pounds since then.

After the weigh-ins concluded, spectators headed toward the vertical challenger to witness the next physical test. Vertical measurements are valued in scouting evaluations of wide receivers and defensive backs, and no one helped improve their evaluation more than defensive back Howden. On his final attempt, he jumped a staggering 39.5 inches off the floor, six more inches than his previous final attempt at the NFL Combine.

Rush was another prospect who had an eye-opening performance start at the vertical challenger. His jump launched him 35.5 inches into the air, an admirable feat for a defensive end.

Unlike Howden, Rush did not receive an invite to the Combine, so his opportunity to display his athletic ability in front of professional teams was confined to this singular event and he made it worthwhile for everyone. The former linebacker-turned-edge rusher bench pressed 225 pounds 19 times, ran an unofficial 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds and jumped 10’3” in the broad jump.

Meanwhile, on the practice field, Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck talked with Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell. The Vikings sent a variety of representatives to attend and despite all 32 NFL teams present, held the largest presence. Their group ranged from the team’s general manager, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, to their designated area scouts.

Historically, the pipeline between the two football programs has been weak. In the last 22 years, only two Gophers have been drafted by the Minnesota Vikings: Esezi Otomewo (2022) and Nate Triplett (2010).

The Pro Day concluded with Trickett taking the field to participate in a kicking drill. In it, he revealed why he finished last season with just 3 missed field goals and zero missed extra points.

He finished the day on a high note after making 8 out of 9 of his field goals from 41 yards out. His only miss came from an attempt 61 yards away, but he quickly redeemed himself by nailing another attempt from 62 yards out.

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