Illinois football players Dave Lindquist, Will Davis, Ryan McDonald and Will Judson have the talent and motivation to play in the NFL. But they are not well known to NFL scouts and fall into the "maybe" category come draft day. To improve their chances of making a team, they competed recently at a pro timing day at the UI.
Defensive tackle Lindquist felt he did well in the drills.
"I thought it went pretty well. I came in with some butterflies. Usually, in a game you hit somebody and you're good to go. They gave us enough time to warm up, so I think things went pretty well."
Dave needed to make an impression at the timing day since he wasn't invited to the NFL Combine. He has heard rumors some teams might be interested in his services, but nothing is concrete at this point.
"I haven't heard much from teams or scouts, but I have heard through my coaches and agent. They've told me there are certain places that are interested. So we'll see what happens with those places."
Lindquist is hopeful of being drafted in a late round. He walked on at Illinois and earned a scholarship and later a starting berth, so he is ready for free agency if he isn't drafted.
"I'm thinking a chance for 6th or 7th round. That's what I'm hoping for, but if not I'll take a free agent spot anywhere. I'll try to work my way on the team like I did here."
Defensive end Will Davis was at the NFL Combine, but he needed the pro timing day to make up for a sub par performance.
"I felt good. I felt a little better than in the Combine. I got real sick at the Combine with flu-like symptoms. I was still weak from it, but I gave it my all."
Hopefully, the NFL scouts will take the illness into account. He thinks they appreciated his willingness to work out anyway.
"A lot of teams liked my workout at the combine, and I did better today. So hopefully they will like me even more. I've been praying that I would find the right place, not necessarily the highest place but one that needs me."
Will realizes the value of ignoring the televised draft and waiting for a call from a team.
"I plan on playing golf or fishing. It's gonna be real gut-wrenching watching it. I'm just planning on being with my family. I'll definitely have my phone with me."
Ryan McDonald also has health-related issues that affected his performance all last year. Neck and leg injuries set back his progress, but he is beginning to see improvement.
"It's getting better. There's been huge strides from the end of the season to now. It's been a process. I was not exactly healthy through last year, but I'm back and it feels good."
Unable to lift heavy weights during his rehabilitation, Ryan lost strength. As an offensive lineman, strength is essential.
"The biggest thing was the bench test. I got 20 (repetitions of 225 pounds), but that is significantly better than not too long ago. I'll take whatever I can get. Obviously, I'm gonna keep working and keep lifting to get stronger, but we'll see what happens. I believe they understand my situation."
Ryan flashed good speed and agility in individual drills. He even caught the pro scout testing him off balance and knocked him to the ground. He was grateful that Illini cornerback Vontae Davis worked out as it attracted a large contingent of pro teams to the workout.
"I don't know where I'll be going after this, but I think it was a pretty good day. There were a lot of people and teams here today, and it was good for everybody's chances. With Vontae being a potential first round choice, the exposure is great."
Wide receiver/returner Will Judson is another unique story. Possessing tremendous speed, the knock on Judson has always been his lack of height. Shorter than his listed 5'-8", he doesn't fit the stereotype expected in the pros. But boy can he run.
"It felt all right. I think I could have been a little faster in my 40. I heard anything from 4.28 to 4.35. Somewhere in that range. I've been bothered by injuries, so I thought I could have gone faster."
That is an amazing time on what many consider a slow surface inside the Irwin indoor practice facility. Hopefully, Will showed the scouts more than just straight ahead speed.
"It's a good thing to have speed because that's the big thing in the NFL. But at the same time, I think I showed them great ball skills, kick returns, punt returns, getting the ball out in space."
Judson has always had to defend himself to the naysayers. If others believe in him as much as he believes in himself, he will get a chance in pro ball.
"There are guys (in the NFL) that are small but quick. They're just good football players. That's the bottom line."
Will may have one team interested, but he admits his big hope was the impression he could make on pro timing day.
"I heard from Seattle a few weeks ago. One of the trainers came in and said they asked about me. But I've been pretty much waiting for the Pro Day. I think I did pretty good."
Players like Dave Lindquist, Will Davis, Ryan McDonald, and Will Judson can be found all over the country. All are willing to forego other post graduate job opportunities for this chance of a lifetime. They won't go down without a fight. They want to keep their dreams alive as long as possible.