For Notre Dame, Pro Day proved to be an exercise in both what was and what wasn’t.
Eleven former Irish football players worked out, a group that spanned three different recruiting classes and four different colleges. Seemingly half the current roster watched, along with a handful of former Notre Dame players, including Super Bowl champion Darius Fleming.
Exiled defensive end Ishaq Williams also watched the workout, as did early enrollee Jerry Tillery. Mike Denbrock, Brian VanGorder, Keith Gilmore, Autry Denson, Scott Booker, Todd Lyght, Harry Hiestand and Mike Sanford all attended.
At least a dozen different NFL franchises hit South Bend to watch DaVaris Daniels, Ben Koyack, Cam McDaniel, Kyle Brindza, Jake Golic, Ethan Johnson, Cody Riggs, Kendall Moore, Justin Utupo, Andrew Hendrix and Alex Welch. The group represents perhaps Notre Dame’s weakest draft class of the Brian Kelly era.
The Irish have had first-round picks in each of the past three drafts, with the low point under Kelly coming in 2011 when second-round pick Kyle Rudolph was the solo selection.
Considering Daniels’ struggle at the NFL Combine when he ran a 4.62 following his season-long suspension, another tight end might be Notre Dame’s first pick this draft. Daniels did post a 39½-inch vertical jump at Pro Day, to go with an 11-foot-1 broad jump and 4.57 40-yard dash.
According to Notre Dame, Koyack posted a 4.72 in the 40-yard dash, which would have ranked third among all tight ends at the NFL Combine.
“I’m just trying to show them my name should be called sooner, not later,” Koyack said. “Trying to cement myself as a guy they see as versatile, see as someone they could put into any situation.”
Koyack and the other skill position players caught passes from Hendrix, with the tight end grabbing every ball thrown his way during that period. Daniels dropped a couple passes from Hendrix, who misfired on a couple more. McDaniel entered the event wanting to show he’s more than a short-yardage back. He had just nine catches all last season and didn’t drop any of the attempts Hendrix put on target.
McDaniel’s three-cone drill represented his most impressive measurable at Pro Day with a 6.78-second time, which would have ranked tops among running backs at the NFL Combine.
“I just want to show how versatile I am, and if (slot receiver) is a place where somebody sees me, I think that that's a role that I could fulfill,” McDaniel said. “I just wanted to start catching as many balls as possible, make it natural again. I mean at Notre Dame I didn't catch nearly as many balls as I would've liked to probably out of the slot.”
McDaniel will return to California following Pro Day to be with his wife, Stephani, who is expecting the couple’s first child, a daughter, imminently.
Brindza attempted field goals outside while the rest of his former teammates drilled inside the Loftus Center. He converted 10-of-12 field goal attempts after posting 21 reps on the bench and a 31-inch vertical jump.
The disappointment of Pro Day was Riggs, who needed the event to build a resume after not earning an NFL Combine invite. He tweaked his right hamstring on his second 40-yard dash attempt and did not work out in the individual agility or position drills. Riggs declined to speak to reporters afterward.
His 40-yard dash times measured 4.45 and 4.46.
Daniels and Moore did meet with the media for the first time on campus since last fall’s academic misconduct investigation that ultimately ended their Notre Dame careers. Daniels said he could have returned next season and suggested he’d like to graduate from Notre Dame eventually but is still two-and-a-half semesters away.
Both players accepted some blame for their part in last season’s investigation that also sidelined Williams, KeiVarae Russell and Eilar Hardy, who was also present at Pro Day.
“I think through the process there was mistakes made on both sides, but I think with Notre Dame being my alma mater and the school being so academically tough that you know what you signed up for when you got here,” Moore said. “Academically, we all knew.”
Daniels admitted it was odd to be back on campus working out. He thanked Brian Kelly and the football program for allowing him to return in an attempt to redo his NFL Combine performance. He deflected questions about whether Notre Dame treated him fairly through the investigation.
“I think that they did what … Notre Dame should do or would do in that situation,” Daniels said. “Whether or not we were treated fairly doesn’t matter. It’s over. It’s in the past, and that’s what it is.”