Cumberland Looking To Prove Self To Pros

Tight ends will play an important role in the new Illinois offense, but that doesn't help those who have graduated. Jeff Cumberland played both tight end and wide receiver at Illinois and could do either in the NFL. However, despite putting up tremendous numbers in speed and leaping tests, he still must prove himself to pro scouts.

Jeff Cumberland is an enigma. At the Pro Timing Day recently at Illinois, Cumberland ran 4.46 in the 40, was credited with an impressive 35.5" in the vertical leap and bench pressed 225 pounds 20 times. At 247 pounds, Cumberland's scores are impressive.

However, he was inconsistent catching passes with the Illini. He tended to catch balls against his body, causing him to juggle and sometimes drop balls right on his numbers. Pro scouts want receivers to catch everything near them, which requires great hands. Speaking at the end of his testing, Cumberland said he continues to work on his weaknesses.

"I went and took three months off, trained real hard down here with Lou (Hernandez). I knew I had the potential to put up good numbers. It's just the whole thing about coming out here and doing it in front of the scouts. That's what I was able to do today.

"I had the foot surgeries last year, but I'm 100% now. After the season, I just worked on the little things like flexibility. I did yoga and things like that to help me put up the numbers I did today."

Cumberland played wide receiver his last two seasons, although he was called back to tight end late his senior year due to shortages at the position. His receiving numbers were weak, partly due to continuing foot problems and partly due to quarterback inconsistencies. He focused on individual drills that followed the testing to prove himself to the NFL scouts.

"The season didn't go the way it should have. So I was focusing on position drills. I knew I could do well in the 40. I'm a natural runner, I've been running all my life. So I wanted to come out here and do the position drills, show I could catch the ball with my hands. Show that I can come in and out of my breaks and run good routes.

"At the beginning I was a little shaky. I was nervous and had the jitters. But after the first couple passes I calmed down. I showed them my ability to catch the ball with my hands and turn upfield to make plays."

He was not invited to the Pro Combine, so the Pro Timing Day was his big chance. He believes he made a positive impression.

"I'm sure some teams like what I did. I'm hoping to get some calls after today. I did questionaires from the Jaguars, Browns, Saints, Packers and a couple other teams."

Cumberland will continue to work out in Champaign while awaiting the NFL draft.

"I'm pretty sure I'll still be here working out. I've still got school, so I can go to school, come here and work out and do position drills. It's not the same workout as working on today, so it should be a little easier."

One way or the other, Cumberland is hungry for a chance to play professionally. With his measurables, someone will likely give him that opportunity.

"I came out here as a tight end, but I can play receiver, defense, wherever they want me to play I'm willing to do."

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