Arizona State doesn't have a wealth of talent expected to be selected in April's NFL Draft, but the Sun Devils' Pro Day Thursday still served an important purpose for many of the program's recent alumni.
More than 15 players who exhausted their eligibility this fall participated in an NFL Combine-style workout Thursday afternoon as the former Sun Devils ran, lifted and jumped in front of scouts from 29 NFL teams, three Canadian Football League teams and one Major League Baseball team.
“Being here for five years, you dream about this day," said former ASU Spur linebacker Laiu Moeakiola, who drew interest from a contingent of scouts that included one from the San Diego Padres. "Obviously it’s not the big stage, but Pro Day and being here with the guys one last day. It was great to come out here and see all the work that you put in the last three months and it’s on display and it’s a blessing to be out here for sure.”
Players tested in the 40-yard dash, L-drill, 20-yard shuttle, 60-yard shuttle, bench press, vertical jump and broad jump and then performed in position-based drills for scouts.
Since the conclusion of the Sun Devils' regular season, the program's draft-eligible players have been training rigorously for the opportunity to put their best foot forward in front of scouts, and many players who participated Thursday said the main focus of their training regimens has been building speed and explosiveness.
“Just about everything, all we’ve been working on is the 225, the vertical and the broad and the other stuff like the L-drill and the agility drill so a lot of starting and just explosive stuff," former ASU tight end Kody Kohl said.
Kohl had more than 20 family members and friends in attendance at the Pro Day, and was one of the former Sun Devils who likely helped his stock in the eyes of scouts with his work in receiving drills, on the bench press (22 reps) and in the vertical jump (35 1/2 inches).
Other former ASU players who impressed with their performances Thursday included Moeakiola, who clocked unofficial 40-yard dash times in the 4.5s, former wide receiver Tim White who posted a 38 1/2 inch vertical jump and former cornerback De'Chavon Hayes who ran the fastest 40-yard dash time of the day with an unofficial time of 4.32 seconds.
“A lot of coaches were excited, I wasn’t as excited because I thought I was going to run a high 4.2 so it wasn’t anything I didn’t expect," Hayes said. "I knew I was coming out here running 4.3, low 4.3s so the first one was a 4.37 and I knew I could do better than that and then I ran a 4.32. I’m still grateful to be in this situation.”
White, kicker Zane Gonzalez and punter Matt Haack performed an extensive workout with scouts looking at specialists Thursday, as White caught kickoffs and punts while Gonzalez and Haack showcased their skills in their respective crafts.
White was among the busiest former Sun Devils Thursday as he participated in every test, worked out with the wide receivers, and stayed until the end of the day, concluding a near three-hour workout with special teams work.
“That’s what I’ve been doing all my career at Arizona State, even in high school and everything," White said of working at different positions. "They definitely prepared me right for this moment and I was extremely thankful to be out here and have the opportunity of my life and I think I capitalized on it.”
Both White and Hayes expressed a willingness to play on the other side of the ball at the next level, as White said he would be open to playing both offense and defense while Hayes, who began his ASU career as a running back, said he's comfortable playing running back and receiver.
“Whatever teams need me to come in and play, I’d step in for any team and fill a role and do my job," Hayes said. "If teams need me to come in and play receiver, slot receiver, I’ll do that, I’m just trying to ball.”
Aside from the seniors who used up all of their eligibility this fall, plenty of the program's alumni were in attendance Thursday. Recent graduates Mike Bercovici, Jordan Simone and Marcus Hardison were all on hand to watch their old teammates compete and assist with drills, while former Sun Devils Mike Willie, Antonio Longino and LeQuan Lewis participated in the program's Pro Day, hoping to catch the eye of scouts and latch on with a professional team this offseason.
Bercovici helped the Sun Devils orchestrate a skill period for wide receivers, while current ASU junior Manny Wilkins offered up his arm and served as the quarterback for ASU's Pro Day on just a day's notice.
Many of the players in attendance on Thursday have spent most of their time leading up to ASU's Pro Day working out with personal trainers and coaches who helped them prepare specifically for the drills they would execute in front of scouts.
Moeakiola and White were among the players who left campus to workout, as Moeakiola worked at the Fischer Institute in Phoenix while White worked with former NFL running back Curtis Conway in Southern California.
“It was really quiet and I worked with a personal trainer, Curtis Conway, I’m sure you guys know him," White said. "I trained with him all the way up until this point, me and him we worked and we work well together. Been at Calabasas High School and it’s just been him and I.”
With Pro Day in the books, the next step for ASU's football alumni is to coordinate private workouts with NFL teams leading up to April's Draft. Though Gonzalez is the only Sun Devil likely to be selected in the draft, many of ASU's players who participated Thursday are hoping to make it with teams as undrafted free agents or pursue other opportunities in football.
“I really want to play football and if that doesn’t happen, I want to get into coaching," Moeakiola said. "That’s something, networking with a lot of the guys and something I’m passionate about. Whether it’s the college level or the high school level, any place I can get my feet in and impact other guys that have been in the same shoes that I have, use that as my purpose here on earth.”
Regardless of how things shake out for Moeakiola and his former teammates in the coming months, he said the chance to test in front of NFL scouts and work out with his close friends was an excellent opportunity and one he thinks he capitalized on.
“The training that we did, me and all the guys, sacrificing throughout the week not going to Whataburger and Chick-Fil-A, just staying inside the house and eating Chipotle and it all paid off," Moeakiola said. "You see the results, we’re happy to come out here and have one more shot and one more opportunity and try to capitalize it.”