Jarred Fayson was a 5-star athlete at Hillsborough High School in Tampa, Florida. He transferred to Illinois after two seasons at the University of Florida and played two years for the Illini after a redshirt year. While he never put up superstar numbers as hoped, he had a productive career and is now a possible NFL draft choice.
Fayson caught 38 balls in 2010, good for 355 yards and one touchdown. And he did an excellent job blocking for a highly potent Illini running game. As a slot receiver, he frequently had to block down on defensive ends much bigger than him.
The talented speedster hoped to break some long-gainers, but that never materialized. To say the least, he was disappointed at the lack of open-field opportunities.
"Absolutely. That falls back on me. I've just got to work harder at running with the ball after the catch. All in all, we had a winning season, so I'm happy."
Fayson endured a long layoff from action after his transfer, and his junior year was a frustrating one for him and the team. He was grateful to help the Illini have a winning season and bowl victory in his final chance.
"That's what we play for, getting to post season and definitely to win. It definitely felt very good."
Despite all the problems he faced throughout his career, Fayson is still an attractive pro prospect. His performance at Pro Timing Day proved that. The 6'-0", 207 pounder ran the 40 yard dash in an amazing 4.39 seconds. In addition, he posted a 39" vertical leap and a 10'-8.5" standing broad jump. He lifted 225 pounds 21 times before tiring.
Everyone knew he has special gifts. But he also worked hard preparing for his day in front of pro scouts.
"I've been working out down in Tampa at Cooper Speed and Strength School, and it definitely paid off working out like I did."
Fayson was not invited to the NFL Combine held earlier, so the Illini Pro Timing Day was his big chance to impress coaches and scouts from 30 teams. When you place all your eggs in one basket, it can be stressful.
"It's so nerve-wracking. The magnitude of a day like today, you couldn't even understand the position you're in. Everyone was nervous, but you're just trying to keep it under control. Turn it into adrenalin and try to perform."
He did that to perfection. He was pleased with his results.
"I was satisfied with my day. I ran fast, I jumped high, jumped far, caught the ball well and ran good routes. So I don't have any complaints."
Fayson credited the team's success for the pro turnout.
"Absolutely. That's a reflection of a winning season. If you win, teams are gonna come in bulk. So that's what we had today."
The pros gave him some good feedback.
"I lot of guys complimented me on a job well done. How fast I ran, how good I looked, how smooth I looked. They definitely said they'd be in contact."
Fayson was not unknown to many of them. He had already been in contact with some pro teams to set up individual workouts for them.
"I had met with about 10 teams already to get things set up. So everything's going well."
The pro draft is unpredictable. It will surprise some players and disappoint others. Fayson doesn't know for sure what will happen, but he's been hearing good things.
"I hear maybe 5th or 6 round. We'll just wait until draft day and see how it goes."
Even if he must go the free agent route, he just wants a chance to continue playing a game he loves.
"Whatever team wants me, I'm gonna try to go in there and put in work to get better and put up better numbers."