Wells grins in semi-embarrassment. “Awww, I don’t really like the flashy things, bright colors. I don’t like to bring attention to myself. But I got them from a friend, Jermaine Whitehead from Auburn. So I wore them and I appreciate that, too.”
So there. Matthew Wells wasn’t really trying to attract attention with his footwear. His footwork, yeah, that did it for him. Mississippi State’s all-purpose linebacker made those gilded shoes shine as Wells flew through the various Pro Day drills.
Almost literally fly, in fact, during the day’s first session. In the Seal Complex weightroom he sprung a professionally-measured 35.5 inches straight-up. That was best of all Pro Day Dogs by a whole inch-and-a-half. His standing broad jump of 9-10 was second-best of the day.
Moving to the Palmeiro Center and now working against a stopwatch, Wells flashed through the 40-yard dash, shuttle and ‘L’ sprints, everything. All times were hand-held, nothing electronic or really official. But when the scouts huddled to compare results, Wells and cornerback Jamerson Love had tied at an agreed-up 4.41 time for the forty.
That was just a tiny bit disappointing to him, if not to the scouts. They were pleased with the time, even excited. “A main emphasis was the 40,” Wells said. “I wanted to run fast, I wanted to run 4.3. I heard different things. I heard 4.35, I heard 4.37. But it’s pretty fast either way.”
Fast enough that when Wells lined-up for his second shot at the forty, a buzz ran around the floor. When it came time for the other drills even long-time professionals were giving this Dog a little extra attention. The drills after all are more ‘football’ than simple sprinting.
“I don’t know any times in those, but I think I change direction pretty good and I stayed in a pretty straight line. I think I did well. I worked hard at it practicing and going through steps. And training in Madison prepared me for all this. Me and Jamerson, I think we came out and executed to the best of our ability.”
Love certainly improved his stock as a pro prospect at cornerback. Wells, now, his situation was just a bit different. At a NFL system-measured 6-1, 221 (compared to his college listing of 6-2, 215) Wells is something of a classic tweener. Is he a pro linebacker, a safety, what?
So, they worked Wells both ways. “Oh, every drill. I started out at linebacker. Then I did all the db drills. It was worth it, I think I did pretty good. You know, I wanted to do whatever I could. I wanted to showcase it and let everyone know what I could do.”
Wells had some extra incentive for campus Pro Day. He did not attend the NFL’s own February combine, which admittedly is a very limited event for the best-known prospects. So it was not an insult nor a real reflection of what pro talent scouts think. Well, other than uncertainty just where Wells will fit into a NFL defense.
“I mean, you never know how things are going to go. It wasn’t the end of the world, I had a chance to come here and do as I could and try to impress everyone. And probably a little more as far as the drills and stuff. But it wasn’t a big thing to not get invited.”
What Wells has in his favor, besides blowing-up the campus combine, is years of game video for experts to analyze. Arriving at Mississippi State as a defensive back, Wells soon grew into a big safety and finally settled at outside linebacker.
His production fairly reflected his attitude, too. While teammates got stats and status, there was Wells going about his business season after season. Only as a senior did fans and media notice hmmm, this guy does everything. And does it very well.
Wells credits the Mississippi State system for his development; not least how Coach Dan Mullen’s program doesn’t ‘pigeonhole’ a player by perceived position. “It was pretty much prepare for every position. I think it was the perfect thing for this time in football.” As a result, Wells has video clips of doing something of everything on his resume.
“Right. I’ve got film of fitting the run, covering, all of that stuff. I think that was pretty good for me.”
Wells’ own career-track has been good for Mississippi State. And as he went through the Pro Day rounds, it was with 19 teammates. In years past a campus Pro Day would have struggled to put a half-dozen genuine NFL prospects together.
Here in 2015, it was a full-score going through their paces. Just as meaningful, Mullen reminded, every NFL franchise and some CFL clubs too were represented at Mississippi State’s Pro Day. Simply, word is getting around.
“The program is on a rise,” Wells said. “We’ve got a lot of prospects, a lot of players that can play on the next level in somebody’s camp. I just like to see the direction it’s going in.”
Now it is time for Wells to find his next-level direction. He’s more than met college obligations, on the field and off it; he leaves campus with a December diploma in human sciences. The pros like that show of discipline and character, too.
The flashy footwear? Well, maybe that made it easier to keep an eye on Wells during drills. From now on his numbers will tell the story sufficiently, Wells again grins.