Familiar faces

LSU Pro Day drew personnel from nearly every NFL franchise to Baton Rouge on Monday, affording teams the opportunity to get one more look at the Tigers' talent pool before making their calls on draft day in April.

Last season, Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Glen Dorsey drew media outlets from across the country to the LSU weight room for his pro day workout. The year prior, Dwayne Bowe did much of the same. Of course, both performances helped them secure a first round draft selection the following month.


New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, who made the trek with nearly a full coaching staff at his side, said that performances like those set the stage for the large turnout in Baton Rouge year in and year out.


"Pro day at LSU is significant," he said. "Obviously when you have a program as successful as LSU's, and you have great players coming in and being developed by the staff here, good things will come. It's really a credit to the program.


"Each year this time there is a number of guys that we have an interest in, and the rest of the league does as well. And each year that just continues to grow."


With draft stock at stake, how much does a combine performance influence an NFL head coach's mentality on a player?


"You know, I don't know if it is making or breaking your chances," Payton said. "We are here just gaining additional information. I think guys have bad days and go on and have success. As a coach, you just start with the tape as much as possible, and then continue to piece together as much information as you can from there."


Karl Dunbar, who returned to campus for the event from his post as the defensive line coach with the Minnesota Vikings, knows the draft process all too well.


The Opelousas native, a three-year starter on the defensive line for LSU from 1986-89, was taken in eighth round of the 1990 NFL draft, where he went on to spend seven seasons with three different organizations.


"I think you get a chance to see a lot of the premier athletes in the country at LSU," Dunbar said. "I think the kids that come from here are a little tougher than a lot of kids you see. It's a little bit to do with the conference, but a lot of credit goes to coach [Tommy] Moffitt's training."


As for the importance of the day's events, Dunbar stressed that simply making an appearance goes a long way for your chances of making it to the next level.


"I think for a kid who didn't go to the combine, a college pro day becomes a big deal," he said. "This is the chance for everyone to get a chance to see them. As for guys like Tyson [Jackson] and Herm [Johnson], who went to the combine, coming here as well shows that they have put in the work since February.


"Herm was 387 pounds at the NFL combine, and he weighed in at 352 today," added Dunbar. "That is a big deal for scouts. People see he's making the effort in a short amount of time, and that is what they really want to see from you at this stage in the game."


Considered by many to be among the top strength and conditioning coaches in the country, Moffitt has spearheaded the Tigers' workout efforts since the turn of the 21st century.


Taking in his former players on Monday for the final time, Moffitt said that the results that come from the day stem from work that began before any of the participants ever put on a purple and gold uniform.


"What you see is more than five years in the making," he said. "You can't get ready for this in two months. Most of these drills we have been doing for a while, but again, we don't train for the draft. Some universities do nothing but combine preparation, we are not like that. We train our guys to be good college players."


Moffitt pointed to Johnson's case as a prime example.


"We had him ready to go for Saturdays, but that is not the same as being ready for Sunday," he said. "He had to lose a lot of weight, and that comes from him going to the combine and hearing that he was too big. When an NFL head coach or manager says that to you, then it becomes different than when your college strength coach tells you something. They will straighten your thinking out in a hurry."


The division line that Moffitt eluded, which separates the preparation for Saturday's from the preparation for combines, is typically cemented after the team's final game.


"Unfortunately, we only worked with a couple of guys for this combine," he said. "Every one of the other guys, once the bowl game is over, head off and work with experts. We prepared them for four or five years, and then they go off. They go to cities like Houston, Dallas, Atlanta and Orlando to train with all these people, so I kind of just let them go."


Ali Highsmith, who competed in the 2008 LSU Pro Day before spending the last year with the Arizona Cardinals, took in the sights alongside a number of his former teammates. The former Tiger linebacker said that, while the appeal of the NFL scouts is tough to look past, the key to success remains focus.


"The stuff that they have you doing is things that you have been doing your whole career," he said. "You're going to get your adrenaline going out here just like you do for a game or the NFL combine, so that is not something to worry about. It is all about mental toughness and getting yourself together to put it out on the line."


Tiger Blitz Top Stories