That was especially true for Henry, who was curiously not invited to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis and has been training for seven weeks for his opportunity at the McClain Center Wednesday.
"I've been motivated from the time I started playing football to reach this level," said Henry. "Whether I was invited to the combine or not, if I was given an opportunity, I was going to showcase my talents."
Henry certainly gave something for the scouts to think about. He hit a personal record in the 40-yard dash (4.53) and the vertical jump (39.5 inches). He also did 16 reps on the bench press at 225 pounds.
"I felt like I faired pretty well," said Henry. "I've been prepping for this kind of moment and I just came out here to do what I was trained to do."
Henry finished his senior season with 67 tackles (third-best on the team) and four interceptions, and is the poster child for overcoming adversity. Overcoming an ACL injury at the end of his true freshman season, Henry had to redshirt, lost his position upon coming back, switched from cornerback to safety and put in the due diligence to be a first-team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches.
So being left off a combine roster was nothing in comparison to the amount of heart and determination he plays with.
"When a lot of these scouts come in here, they judge us off our tape, how high we can jump, how fast we are and how much you can bench press," said Henry. "That doesn't correlate directly to football because we've had guys throughout the University of Wisconsin that weren't run that fast, bench press that much or jump that night who have succeed in the NFL. It's all part of a process."
Henry wasn't the only player that felt comfortable working out in familiar territory. Ewing said the combine in Indianapolis involved ‘poking and prodding,' which included lots of medical and drug tests and early wake-up calls. Nothing of the sort happened today.
"It's night and day," said Ewing. "This is definitely a more comfortable environment."
It could be seen by some of the performances turned in by former Badgers. After running a 4.54 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine, Toon was told he ran 40 times of 4.40 and 4.43, giving scouts something different to think about than his history of foot problems.
"I ran well today, and I think I dispelled any doubts about my speed today," said Toon, who also posted a 39-inch vertical jump and 10-10 on the broad jump. "I looked good. I felt good running routes and hopefully nobody has any more questions regarding my speed."
Toon also looked good catching passes and running routes, another home town advantage with Wilson throwing the passes.
"He's been throwing to me all year, so it's nice to have him out here for pro day," said Wilson of Toon. "He looked good and was throwing the ball great today."
Toon called him the "most underrated player in the draft." Ewing said he was "anything a team could want in a quarterback." The media gathered around him was bigger than any other player, which showed that Russell Mania was still alive in Madison.
Being worked out and directed by former NFL and Heisman Trophy quarterback Chris Weinke, Wilson said he went through every possible route he could throw in the NFL. The result was him going 60-for-63 with strong and accurate throws on out routes, slant routes, pocket passes, mobile passes, short passes and deep throws and doing all with different drop steps.
"You always want to be accurate with the football and deliver it on time and put it in a place where your guy to get it," said Wilson. "The fact that I can extend plays and make things happen in terms of keeping my eyes down the field and be efficient that way will really help me in the NFL."
Wilson said he'll be staying in town for two weeks for private workouts before filming a quarterback segment with ESPN analyst Jon Gruden. After that, he's heading back to Florida to continue training for the NFL, showing the team that picks him that height doesn't matter.
"I've been this way my whole life," said Wilson. "My height's not a factor. I've played this way my whole life. I think I only got three balls batted down all season. The key is finding lanes and delivering the ball on time. There's not that much of a difference if I was 6-1 or 5-11, really, to be honest with you playing behind the offensive line you play behind.
"This is the moment I've been training for my whole entire life ever since I was two years old. It doesn't get any better than that."
Ewing Looking for a Chance
After accomplishing what he wanted at the combine, Ewing simply did position drills and caught passes from Wilson. His goal heading into a NFL where every team doesn't use fullbacks is simple: show he is versatile and willing to do whatever he needs to do.
"I think my film hopefully speaks for itself," said Ewing. "Just continue to do what they ask as far as catch the ball and show that maybe I can do some running back type stuff. Just show them the type of player I am and hopefully that's enough.
"The process wears you down. I definitely did the best I could."
Ewing, who said he slimmed down about six pounds after the season, also said he'll have to play special teams in the NFL to get an opportunity, which he hopes will come somewhere in the sixth or seventh round.
"Only playing 20, 25, 30 snaps a game, playing on special teams is almost a must to play on a roster," said Ewing. "Hopefully I am in that elite group (of being a drafted fullback)."
You aren't going to say hi?
Kevin Zeitler said the realization of his dream of becoming an NFL player won't begin until the end of next month, but the Wisconsin native has already had some fun run-ins, including running into Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson in Indianapolis.
"I was walking back from a hotel across the street, I was getting stretched out by my trainer, and I saw a guy with really white hair outside the hotel," said Zeitler. "I said to myself, ‘That has to be Ted Thompson.' I wasn't entirely sure so I just kept walking. We kind of stared each other down. I walked by and he's like, ‘Zeitler, you aren't going to stop and say hi to me?' I had to stop and say hi."
Zeitler did some position work and some one-on-one work snapping the football with Chicago offensive line coach Mike Tice and a scout for the Kansas City Chiefs. With teams only able to suit up seven offensive linemen per game, Zeitler says interior linemen need to be able to play both guard positions and center, the latter of which he's been working on since the Senior Bowl.
"The one backup on the inside has to play three without hesitation," said Zeitler. "(Playing center) was something I always knew going into the process. I am kind of short, so center is where a lot of people are going to put me. The key is I had to prove it there (at the combine) and today that I could do it."