Pro Day battles the weather

The soggy conditions in Gainesville during Monday morning sent Florida's Pro Day inside the O'Connell Center for 40-yard dashes before the players hit the outside turf practice field for position drills. Players did most of their drills in the weight room, and the constant rain forced players to adjust. Florida coach Will Muschamp heard positive reviews from the way his players reacted to it.

"You play football in the rain," Will Muschamp said. "A lot of comments from (NFL) coaches and scouts about those guys going out and competing in the rain. They weren't bellyaching about it. They went out and competed. That's what you want to see, regardless of the situation."

It did cause players to be put in situations they didn't prepare for. The O'Connell Center was set up like it normally is for indoor track meets, and the Florida players ran their 40s around the second level of the dome. Some players, including Solomon Patton, elected to run barefoot.

After spending months preparing to run outside on grass, the weather pushed them inside on Monday. The ability of the players to come inside and prove what they could do is something Muschamp believes could end up benefitting them in the end. He didn't expect players to be knocked down on a team's board simply because the change of conditions could impact their times.

"The scouts and coaches are professionals," Muschamp said. "They understand the circumstances. They understand the situation. You just move forward and do the best you can."

After spending 3-5 years in the Florida program, the NFL Draft process takes them back to their time in high school. The players are meeting with multiple teams in different setting and continue to be courted by different organizations. For some players, it turns into an early draft pick. For others, it's simply trying to earn a draft selection or an undrafted free agent contract when the draft is completed.

The stands of the O'Connell Center and the sideline of the practice field were filled with family and friends of the players working out. Muschamp heard from many of them about the surprises that came with the process.

"It's kind of like the recruiting process," Muschamp said. "You really don't know what it's all about. It's a business. These guys are out to see these guys work out and compete. They want to see them in situations and how they handle hard coaching.

"It's nothing different than the recruiting process when a kid comes to summer camp. That's why it's so critical to get a guy and see him work, what he does and how he responds in those situations. It's interesting to watch how much it relates to high school recruiting for us to have a kid come work in camp and be similar to what these scouts do."

The most noticeable outcome of Monday was the close bond that remains with the Florida players. It didn't matter which player was setting up to run the 40 or going through the positional drills, his former teammates were always on the sideline cheering and screaming encouragement.

It's an important part of this process. It carried to the NFL Combine and continued into the workouts on Monday. The players genuinely care about each other and want the others to do well.

"It's a camaraderie you're going to have for the rest of your life playing at the University of Florida," Muschamp said. "Those guys care a lot about each other and how each other does. They stay in touch and work around our guys. It's exciting."

In past years, Muschamp has mentioned the importance of Pro Day being a guide to where the program stands. After a 4-8 record in the fall, all 32 NFL teams were represented in Gainesville on Monday. Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer and New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan were two of the more table names in attendance for the day as well as multiple general managers.

"To have that turnout after the year we had, it tells you we have some good players in the program," Muschamp said. "It was an extremely frustrating and disappointing fall, and that's on me. We've made the appropriate football changes moving forward to have a really good football team this fall. And we will."


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