Representatives from 20 National Football League teams and a Canadian Football League scout threw everything they had – including a curveball – at nine Troy football players during the Trojans’ Pro Day.
With ominous weather threatening Monday morning, the typical Pro Day schedule was adjusted. The running events – shuttle runs, three-cone drill and 40-yard dash – were held first. Then players returned inside for the broad jump, vertical jump and bench press.
The morning ended with positional drills, which just barely beat a downpour, on the field.
Cornerback Blace Brown shaved a full tenth of a second off the 40 time he ran at the NFL Combine and clocked a 4.65.
“This is my home turf, so I wasn’t nervous at all here,” Brown said. “Being on a stage like the Combine, never done anything like that before, felt tight. Just wasn’t loose, a lot of my mechanics weren’t there. Being home helped me get comfortable.”
Brown was the only Troy player invited to the recent NFL Combine in Indianapolis.
“I thought today guys that needed to help themselves really did despite the weather,” said Richard Shaughnessy, Troy’s director of strength and conditioning. “Blace helped himself from what he did at the Combine.”
Perhaps no one helped himself more than receiver Damion Willis, who checked in at 6-foot-3, 204 pounds and ran a 4.48 40. Several scouts pulled him aside or waited for a quick word after his individual workout to set up extended interviews.
“I think today went pretty well,” Willis said. “Today, they all wanted to see me run, so I think I proved that I could actually run. I clocked the exact time they wanted me to run.”
Willis was pleased with his sub-4.5 time.
“I had only clocked that once where I was training for this, so I was happy to clock that today,” he said.
The receiver said he wanted the scouts to see “a tall receiver who is able to make 50-50 catches and help their team win.”
If there was down side to Willis’ day, it was the change in the order that he felt hurt his indoor work.
“I had a couple struggles on the vertical, but I’m fine with it,” he said.
Four-year starting safety Cedarius Rookard said he hopes he “turned a couple heads” with his performance.
“I’ve been working on this dream since I was young,” Rookard said. “I just want to eventually make my dream come true. … The scouts said I had a bright future and that I did pretty good today.”
Rookard ran identical 4.55 40s.
“It wasn’t my best 40, but it turned a couple heads,” the safety said. “I usually jump higher and better than what I did today. Since we ran first it knocked it down a little bit, I guess.”
Rookard agreed that it’s a crazy process to put down four years worth of game tape, but so much of what the NFL wants to know are those “measurable.”
“Man, I barely slept last night. I think I was overwound,” Rookard said. “Honestly, I got about four hours of sleep before I woke up around 3. That’s when it all hit. It all came to reality.”
Receiver Deondre Douglas acknowledged the pressure that was on the players to peak for this day.
“There’s a good bit of pressure, but I had to stay composed and realize that I’ve done all that I could,” Douglas said. “I was put in the best position possible to be able to perform today. I like I did the most I could possibly do to be prepared for this.”
Douglas was excited about his 19 reps on the bench press.
“I came in pretty confident,” he said, adding he got feedback from the scouts.
“I’m a strong guy,” he summed up. “A little stiff, pretty quick.”
He said he will be working on flexibility and “thinking when I’m tired” as he works out for team in advance of the NFL Draft.
Linebacker Hunter Reese, unlike most of his former teammates, said he liked running first.
“I feel like after all the running, you come inside and you’ll be more loose to jump,” Reese said. “If we’d started in the weight room and started with bench and jumps, we wouldn’t have been as warm as we were. I liked running first.”
Offensive lineman Deontae Crumitie and defensive lineman Trevon Sanders may have helped themselves on Monday.
Crumitie, at 6-foot-2, 297, led the way with 28 reps on the 225-pound bench press, which would have ranked ninth-best at the Combine. Sanders was next at 22 reps.
“It went pretty good today,” Crumitie said. “It’s definitely challenging. They’re throwing everything at you at once.”
Crumitie said he wanted to show the scouts “that I can move, that I’m powerful, quick. That’s my main focus.”
He played in the Spiral Tropical Bowl, a college all-star game, in January and got good reviews there.
“They said I did pretty good,” the lineman said. “Today, they wanted to see how I move.”
Brown, Crumitie, Sanders, Sidney Davis, Douglas, Gabe Hill, Reese, Rookard and Willis all participated. Brown was only going to run the 40, but decided to do everything.
“They called my name and wanted to see my 60 shuttle, so I went ahead and did that and I just kept rolling with it,” said the cornerback, who checked in at just over 6-foot and 188 pounds.
Brown had a 37½ -inch vertical jump, a 10-foot, ½-inch broad jump and a 6.94-second three-cone drill. But his day came down to the 40.
“4.7, 4.6, I know a lot of guys that have done close to those times,” Brown said. “The tape speaks for itself. A guy I know, Teez Tabor at Florida, did the same thing. I know I can play. I know I can roll with the 4.3 guys because of my technique.”