“It’s a fun day for our guys,” Mullen said, then he bragged a bit. “Every NFL team is represented here today with somebody to come look at our prospects.”
It certainly is a crowded corner of campus Wednesday with the horde of professional talent scouts measuring, clocking, watching, and sometimes carefully talking to the Bulldogs participating in 2015 Pro Day. For the first time media as well were allowed to attend, and yes the print, radio, and TV folk were doing their best to time and evaluate and whatever along with men whose careers hinge on picking the right personnel for their franchises.
This campus Pro Day had 20 Bulldogs participating. Two, quarterback Tyler Russell and safety Nickoe Whitley, ended their 2013 senior seasons injured and have been working their way back into pro positions. This Pro Day was their chance.
The rest were ’14 seniors and early-departing juniors running back Josh Robinson and linebacker Benardrick McKinney. Those two, along with defensive end Preston Smith, appeared at the NFL’s own elite combine last month in Indianapolis.
So for the rest, this was the best first chance to make a personal impression, and do it among an encouraging crowd of Bulldog peers and some family and friends. Besides, as Mullen reminded, “They get the same opportunity here they get up there.”
The day began with scouts doing a NFL-scripted measurement of real heights and weights, which in a few cases radically differ from how these men were listed as college players (list at end). The weightroom session of bench presses and vertical jumps was closed to media for space and safety reasons.
The 40-yard dash, as well as various cone drills, was open in Palmeiro. After the running was done all scouts huddled to come up with consensus-agreement results in the speed and agility drills. Every stop watch is operated just a tiny bit differently, after all, so no one’s clocking is truly ‘official’ in the 40, the cones, the shuttle, anything.
By mutual agreement, the leaders were cornerback Jamerson Love and linebacker Matthew Wells. They were timed by the majority at 4.41.
More definitive facts came from the weightroom. There Wells led the list in the vertical jump at 35.5 inches, followed running back Nick Griffin and Love at 34 inches even. On the 225-pound bench press, defensive tackle Kaleb Eulls and, impressively again, Griffin both produced 26 repetitions.
Some of the 40-times were to be provided by mid-day. Unofficially though, Wells caught everyone’s eye(s) with low 4.3s from everyone. He wasn’t the outright fastest on the 40, but close enough at his size and weight to affirm what scouts suspected. Wells is a potential steal for somebody.
Mullen was watching the scouts from a distance as they clocked kids. “Guys like Matt come out and run a blazing time, wow I didn’t know he was that fast.”
Yes, the head coach stayed a bit apart from the crowd Wednesday. Occasionally he’d chat with somebody but most of the time Mullen looked on. Pro Day is certainly for the outgoing Dogs. But it is also a measure of what has been achieved in Mullen’s tenure here, not least that 20 Dogs were legitimate participants in the process.
Also, Mullen noted most of them are walking out having been a part of four and in some cases five career bowl trips. “They’ve had great careers and some of the most successful years in Mississippi State history.” And Mullen proudly added, in most cases they carry their Mississippi State diploma.
“I’m proud of them to go live a dream,” he said. “The whole program takes so much pride in these guys getting that opportunity.”
And yes, there was one other pride-point for Mississippi State’s coach. It’s well-known now that McKinney, Smith, Robinson, et.al., were not among the elite regional or national prospects as high school seniors. Yet here they were showing their stuff for scouts who take them seriously as prospects for the highest level of the game.
This let Mullen do a bit more justified bragging. “Either we develop them good, or all the recruiting rankings are way off! Maybe a little bit of both there,” he said.
“But when you see so many guys have that opportunity it looks at how we develop players. and we take a great deal of pride in being a developmental program. It shows a lot of other young guys that if I follow that path, if I work my tail off, I get my degree and work to maximize myself every day, I can be successful.”
Speaking of success… In the crowd there was scattered another group of very interested observers. They were Bulldogs who in 2015 are seniors and draft-potential juniors. Some came by just to cheer on their friends. Several such as quarterback Dak Prescott and linebacker Beniquez Brown used their phones to ‘clock’ the 40 and so on, then announced the times loudly and proudly.
But all were watching, weighing, wondering what will happen next March when it is their own turn to lift, jump, and run under the merciless eyes of scouts?
So, Pro Day isn’t just for outgoing Dogs, Mullen said. The returning players are part of this process, too. “They see what it all about.”
NFL HEIGHTS AND WEIGHTS: Ben Beckwith 6-3 313; Blaine Clausell 6-6 329; Dillon Day 6-3 301; Kaleb Eulls 6-2.5 305; Nick Griffin 5-11 232; Christian Holmes 5-11 240; Jay Hughes 5-9 194; Malcolm Johnson 6-1 231; Robert Johnson 6-0 209; P.J. Jones 6-2 298; Jameon Lewis 5-8 188; Benardrick McKinney 6-4 247; Josh Robinson 5-8 215; Preston Smith 6-4 273; Matt Wells 6-1 222; Brandon Hill n/a