Pro days aren't for the stars. They're for players like Rutgers' Jason McCourty.
McCourty was a three-year starter at cornerback in a major conference. At 5-foot-10 and known for his speed, he had the measurables NFL teams are looking for. He played primarily man-to-man coverage and has proven kick-return ability. And there are no worries about his ability to pick up the NFL game, since he was a semifinalist for the Draddy Award, which is the academic equivalent of the Heisman Trophy.
Still, even with all of that going for him, McCourty wasn't invited to the NFL Scouting Combine in February.
"It was just something that I took as everything you want isn't going to happen and it's not going to be easy," McCourty told Packer Report on Sunday. "I just took it as a little extra motivation to go out and work hard. I took it as a blessing in disguise. It gave me more time to get ready for my pro day."
That must have been time well spent. McCourty ran his 40-yard dash in a blistering 4.32 seconds with a 36.5-inch vertical jump.
The Green Bay Packers certainly took notice. The Packers, who would like to add another young cornerback, will host a formal meeting with McCourty on Wednesday.
"Sometimes, teams have a lot of players they evaluate and some guys slip through the cracks," McCourty said when asked of the importance of that March 23 workout. "I think if you go out on your pro day and run a 40 time like that, it opens a lot of people's eyes. It's not going to automatically get you drafted or anything like that, but it will allow teams to say, ‘Wow, this guy runs that fast.' They might go back in the film room and start to re-evaluate your film."
What the scouts see will be intriguing. McCourty had just two interceptions during his collegiate career, both coming this past season against South Florida. He never earned all-Big East recognition, despite 12 pass breakups as a junior. Then again, he was a vital cog on a Rutgers team that won bowl games during all three season in which McCourty was a starter. Plus, he averaged 25.8 yards last season on kickoff returns, a department in which the Packers ranked last in the NFL.
"McCourty is a solid cover corner who possesses outstanding speed," said Scout.com draft analyst Chris Steuber, who calls McCourty a sixth- or seventh-round prospect. "He has a strong frame and plays physical at the line of scrimmage. But he has a tendency to be overly aggressive. He's at his best playing off the line, which allows him to read and react and use his quickness to interrupt a play. He transitions well with receivers and can defend over the middle and downfield. He closes quickly on the opposition and isn't afraid to mix it up. He takes a lot of chances and will bite on play action. He positions himself well to make big plays, but he has to improve his ball skills. He's a promising return specialist, but again, improving his hands is crucial."
"Just every day in practice going up against guys like Ti and Kenny, you're going to continue to get better," McCourty said. "Those two types of receivers are going to challenge you every day. They both bring something a little different. Kenny is extremely physical. Ti is a little bit more speed and quickness. I think being able to match up with those two guys every day in practice helps you get to know that you have to compete every play."
McCourty said he's received plenty of positive feedback from coaches and scouts who have given him a second look. His intelligence has impressed when he's had to go to the chalkboard and explain schemes.
"It's kind of cool if you think about it," he said when asked if he's enjoying the draft process. "You always dream about the opportunity to play professional sports. Then you get to this point, and to actually have the opportunity and your blessed with it, it's kind of cool just to go around to different teams and talk to different coaches."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Bill also is giving Facebook and Twitter a try. Find him on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport