Some luster came off the event since offensive tackle Jeff Otah did not participate due to a sore ankle, but eight former Panthers football players still had their hopes for playing professional football buoyed by their performances at Pitt's Pro Day Monday at the UPMC Sports Complex.
Otah, who already is projected to be a first-round pick during the annual NFL Draft April 26-27, will conduct a private workout for NFL representatives April 9 at the Pittsburgh practice facility. But he still talked about his prospects.
"Several teams have called me so far,'' Otah said. The Bears, the Panthers, the Eagles, the Steelers, definitely are looking at me, and I just talked to Kansas City today. But you never know how this things going to work out."
"It's all about team needs and how things play out on draft day. So, I just want to keep working hard and get some good measurables. I've got good film, but now I've got to get the other stuff, running, weightlifting and agility.''
Pitt OT Jeff Otah runs through positional drills at the Scouting Combine.
The media were not allowed to view Pitt's Pro Day events, but Panthers Coach Dave Wannstedt noted that more than 40 NFL scouts and representatives were in attendance, even though some like his friend Carolina Panthers head Coach John Fox, canceled after Otah decided not to work out.
As expected, the Steelers were heavily represented, including head coach Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert, the club's director of football operations. Since Pitt is next door at the practice facility, the Steelers have already talked to Otah, guard Mike McGlynn and tight end Darrell Strong.
"Otah, he's got a lot of things that you like, and it starts with being 6-6 and 330,'' Tomlin said. But he's a guy that's performed well, and I'm sure everyone knows that he's a capable guy. ... He did a nice job for us. We're going to bring in 30 guys and interview them as part of the process."
"We had some guys locally that we talked to, so we didn't have to take care of those at the Combine. ... Position-flexibility is McGlynn's most attractive quality, and he's a tough guy,'' Tomlin said. "We'll evaluate Strong. He's got some skills and some talent, so he's a guy that has a shot to get drafted.''
Joe Clermond, Pitt's productive defensive end, also has a chance to get drafted along with the aforementioned players. Colbert talked about his prospects.
"In our scheme, he'd have to be an outside linebacker, only because of his size (6-3, 260),'' Colbert said. He's built like our linebackers; he'd have to be a linebacker in the 3-4. But in a 4-3, he could be a D-end.''
Former Pitt star and Steelers offensive line coach Russ Grimm, now an assistant head coach with the Arizona Cardinals, watched the workout with scouts from the Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons, San Diego Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs, Detroit Lions, New Orleans Saints, Indianapolis Colts, Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys, among others.
"After today, we'll find out which teams want to fly me in to visit with their franchises,'' McGlynn said. We'll see what teams are interested, but we've got a food feeling about it. I'm projected to be a third-round pick, but hopefully, after my workout and talking to some people, I'll move up into the late second."
"But we'll see. I'm just excited to possibly be drafted and to play in the NFL. It's a goal of mine and a dream, so I can't wait for the NFL Draft next month. ... Different teams are looking at me in different ways, as a guard, a tackle, a center, so my versatility will help me out. So, we'll see what happens.''
Strong said he improved in every category from his NFL Combine numbers. "At the Combine I think I had just one drop, so I wanted to make sure I caught everything here,'' Strong said. "I think it's important to show improvement, if you can, but it's much more relaxed here than at the Combine.
"That was very stressful. (But) I improved my vertical by 9 1/2 inches, so I think that was a good thing. I weighed about 270 at the Combine, but I came in here at 261. I wanted to be at 260, my playing weight last year, but that one pound ... I guess it was the spaghetti I ate last night at dinner.''
The other former Pitt players at the workout were cornerback Kennard Cox, safety Mike Phillips, cornerback Lowell Robinson, defensive end Chris McKillop and outside linebacker Jemeel Brady.
"Any rookie hopes to break in how he can, and special teams are a way for me to do that,'' Cox said. But, one day, you want to work into the starting lineup. And that's my goal. We did the 40. ... We did the vertical, broad jump, position drills. We did a lot of things, and I think I improved myself with the results.''
Otah, McGlynn, Strong and Clermond were the only former Pitt players invited to the NFL Combine, and Otah worked hard to get ready for it. But he still wasn't completely prepared for everything that was involved.
"I trimmed down some, to 322 from about 340,'' Otah said. So, I thought I could handle anything. (But) the Combine was real crazy and real stressful, but I think they make it like that to see how you cope with it. I did all right at the Combine. I think I could have done better in a couple things, but I did all right. I scored OK on the (psych) test, and I can improve on things at my pro day.''
Notes: Many current Pitt players watched their former teammates perform, some to see what the experience will be like before they have to do it in the future. ... Wannstedt still walks with a limp after having knee and Achilles surgery last year. ... Running backs coach David Walker is wearing a boot on his left foot after surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles he suffered while playing basketball. ... Reportedly, there will be no number changes for the spring. We're working on a complete roster for the site that should be finished Tuesday and updated to add numbers for some walk-ons after the first practice.
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