Pro Day on The Farm

While this week is all about "March Madness" and postseason basketball for most of the collegiate and Cardinal sporting communities, it is also a hot time for the approaching NFL Draft. Scouts from all over the NFL descended upon The Farm yesterday to watch a number of seniors test and work out during Stanford's Pro Day. Though rain dampened the affair, some of the times turned a lot of heads.

Unseasonably cool and wet weather of late has disappointed Bay Area residents and dampened spirits.  With Stanford spring football practices just around the corner, we look to the skies and the long-range weather forecast with a careful eye.  On Wednesday, wet conditions touched the Cardinal in a tangible fashion.  Stanford held its annual "Pro Day" Wednesday morning, with a gathering of NFL scouts from across the country on hand to measure, test, time and work out Cardinal seniors in the weight room and on the football field.

Some of the teams in attendance included the Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers, Denver Broncos, Baltimore Ravens and Chicago Bears.  Nearly the entire League was represented, with approximately 24 teams on The Farm.  They had a good number of prospects to evaluate on both sides of the ball.

Unfortunately, the grass at Stanford's practice field was wet with drizzling rain.  The starts were difficult for all who ran the 40, leaving a lot of seniors shaking their heads in frustration.  The good news, at least in part, is that some scouts will return on March 30 to give a second opportunity for Stanford seniors to run and record times.  Wide receiver Justin McCullum will aim to run better than the high 4.5s, while outside linebacker Timi Wusu will seek to prove he is faster than a 4.6.  Inside linebacker Kevin Schimmelmann had been running in the mid-4.5s but slipped his way to the high 4.6s on this wet day.

Two speedsters who managed to shine through the dark clouds and light rain were wide receiver Gerren Crochet and cornerback/kick returner T.J. Rushing.  The former was timed between 4.37 and 4.41 in the 40 while also jumping 42 inches in the vertical.  He also had a solid day catching the ball and running routes.  Rushing had the fastest time on the field, with a 4.34.  That number may blow you away by itself, but considering the wet conditions, it struck the scouts like a thunderbolt.  The Bears scout was heard to say that he considered the time a 4.19 in dry conditions.  Rushing also delivered an impressive 40-inch vertical while putting up 20 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press.  An explosive athlete who is often discounted because of his size, Rushing put himself on the 2006 NFL Draft map with this day.

A couple of linebackers you would expect to put forth jaw-dropping times in a testing environment did not.  Michael Craven, in a scene too reminiscent of his sad story at Stanford, pulled his hamstring while running his first 40 of the day.  On the other end of the fortune spectrum, Jon Alston elected not to be tested after he already etched his reputation in stone at the NFL Combine three weeks ago in Indianapolis (Ind.).  Alston there ran the fastest 40 among all linebackers with a 4.40, while also topping the broad jump at 11 feet.

The interesting note on Alston is that his speed has scouts so impressed that he is getting looks from half the League at safety, in addition to half who like him at linebacker.  At yesterday's Pro Day, he ran safety drills for a number of teams, taking drops and catching the ball.  He looked every bit the part of a safety in both his hands and how he moved.  We note that the Chiefs worked out Alston a little extra at the end of the event.  The red-hot linebacker/safety prospect has already had an individual workout with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and he has visits upcoming from the Dallas Cowboys and St. Louis Rams.

Defensive end Julian Jenkins continues to look like a first-day prospect, running a 4.85 in the 40 despite the wet grass.  Defensive line mate and nose tackle prospect Babatunde Oshinowo did not run the 40 in these conditions, from what we saw and heard.

A scene familiar from his last five years on this same practice field, we saw kicker Michael Sgroi off to the side doing individual kicking drills for scouts.

Some faces from past Stanford Pro Days were in attendance as well.  Troy Walters and Kerry Carter were both in town and watched from the rail with smiles on their faces.  A Cardinal alum in the middle of the action was quarterback Chris Lewis, who cast aside his Cologne Centurions jacket to throw passes to Crochet, McCullum and J.R. Lemon in receiving drills.  Lewis is a local resident these days, though currently on the injured reserve, for the San Jose Sabercats in the Arena Football League.


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