BC Pro Day Part One

BC held its annual Pro Day for interested NFL scouts. This event is not only for Boston College players headed into the draft; it is also where guys looking for another shot at the draft and players from local colleges get a chance to impress the scouts. Of course, BC has several players with high interest from the NFL. Eagle Insider was there to report on the activities.

BOSTON - While not quite as busy as last year, when NFL coaches and head scouts, ESPN reporters, and endless lines of reporters crowded into the Alumni Stadium bubble to get a glimpse of Matt Ryan, Boston College's annual football pro day was once again well-attended – and once again hosted a player who looks to land in the top 10 of the NFL draft.

Most of the day's buzz centered around BJ Raji, BC's monstrous defensive tackle who projects to be drafted in the top half of the first round, with some mock drafts placing him as high as 5th. His cohort on the defensive line, Ron Brace, also drew attention as a potential first or second round draft pick.

But beyond the day's two big stars, BC pro day offered up countless interesting stories – from Chris Crane, the senior quarterback who was finally coming into his own before being derailed by an injury, to Brian Toal, who had his extraordinary career limited by injuries multiple times, to Robert Francois, who just hopes to make it onto an NFL roster and prove his worth.

The event also featured former BC players looking for a second or a third chance, including running backs AJ Brooks, LV Whitworth, and Survival Ross, tight end Jon Loyte, and safety Antonio Valverde.

Then, there were the long shots: five players from perennial FCS power UMass, including QB Liam Cohen; four representatives from Harvard and another from Yale; John White, the quarterback from Bentley, and three Holy Cross Crusaders.

Each player got a chance to show what they had to 20 representatives from 15 different NFL teams. Five members of the New York Jets staff were present, including new head coach Rex Ryan and general manager Mike Tannenbaum. The Jets appear to be very interested in Raji.

"I grew up a Giants fan, but if the Jets draft me, I'll be a Jets fan," Raji laughed.

Gosder Cherilus, who participated in BC's Pro Day last year before being drafted by the Detroit Lions, was on hand, and was very impressed with the improvement of BC's perception.

"This [interest] tells you about the type of job done by the coaching staff," Cherilus said. "My freshman year, BC pro day was a little different. Then last year, you look at Matt Ryan, myself, JoLonn Dunbar… now this year, I couldn't even find a parking spot. It shows how far we've come. They were talking about BC pro day on the NFL Network earlier, the way they'd talk about Miami pro day, or Florida State pro day. It's impressive."

"We have a lot of good players each year," said Francois. "The school's getting more and more attention."

Francois reported that his workouts went well, and that he participated in a wide array of drills, including the vertical leap, the broad jump, the 40, the pro agility drill, and multiple position drills.

"I just want to go out there and show what I can do," he said. "I just want to get picked up by a team, so I can produce. I'll always give it everything I have, and I think I was able to show that during my position drills."

No matter what happens with his pro career, Francois will look back at BC fondly.

"The thing I'm most proud of during my time here is getting my degree, and finishing a successful career with the football team. I've made some great friends here, got a great education, and I've grown as a man," he said.

"Now I just hope I can prove myself at the next level."

Brian Toal, another of BC's star-studded linebacking corps, hoped to use pro day as a chance to prove he's back and ready to go after suffering a season-ending injury in the fall. Toal also missed the entire 2007 season due to injury.

"It's good to be back out here," he said. "I just want to get out here and play."

"A guy that's versatile is more valuable to teams," he continued. "I can play 3 ways – fullback, linebacker, and special teams. Whatever the team needs me to do, I'll do… I'm an instinctual football player and I give 100% every play."

"I feel everything went pretty well today. I probably could have done better, but it was a good day overall… I trained for every event, because everything's important. There's room to improve on everything."

The full lineup of participating BC players included Kevin Akins, Paul Anderson, Brace, Crane, Francois, Ryan Purvis, Raji, Clif Ramsey, Brandon Robinson, and Toal.

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