NFL hopefuls make final impression
Utah State held its pro day on Tuesday in front of scouts representing 20 teams from the National Football League and one from the Canadian Football League. It was the last chance for the 18 former USU football players performing to make an impression on professional football teams before the NFL Draft.
Of the 18 players competing, 16 were on the team last season in Maurice Alexander, Quinton Byrd, Joey DeMartino, Jake Doughty, Tay Glover-Wright, Tyler Larsen, Nevin Lawson, Jamie Markosian, Robert Marshall, AJ Pataiali’i, Paul Piukala, Eric Schultz, Sini Tauauve’a, D.J. Tialavea, Travis Van Leeuwen and Connor Williams. Two of them were on the team two seasons ago in Kellen Bartlett and Bojay Filimoeatu.
Filimoeatu injured his knee during a postseason bowl in 2013 and spent most of last year rehabbing it.
“It felt good to be back. It feels good to be doing football drills again instead of working out with personal trainers and getting my knee right,” Filimoeatu said. “I’m better now. I’m blessed because I went through that struggle to let me know what it really is like outside of football and to start from the bottom, so it really humbles you.”
One of the main measurements of the day was the 40-yard dash times for the athletes. Though all times were unofficial, they were higher than expected, warranting some scouts to measure the field to make sure it was actually 40 yards. Lawson and Glover-Wright both ran 4.30 while Byrd ran a 4.34. Doughty ran 4.53, and Pataili’i ran 4.94.
“I thought I did well. It’s all about technique and trusting yourself and not thinking too much,” Pataili’i said. “I put in hard work over the last three months so now it’s time to show it off and show the scouts that I can be a [high] caliber player to their organization.”
Pataili’i also recorded 29 reps on the 225-pound bench press, second only to Filimoeatu, who repped it 33 times on the day.
“I was kind of upset,” said Pataili’i about the bench. “I can get more, but I’m happy and excited that I put up the numbers that I did.”
Four of the players at the event also competed in the NFL Draft Combine in late February. They were Lawson, Alexander, Larsen and Tialavea.
“It’s more relaxed, more comfortable,” said Lawson about the difference between the combine and the pro day. “It was fun. I competed with these boys for a long time and this is our last time performing together, so this was a great experience and I love that we all went out together with a bang.”
Now, all the athletes have to do is wait for the NFL Draft and hope their phone rings. The lasting image for the scouts will be what they saw on Tuesday.
“I felt real good. You kind of come out here and you don’t know what to expect. You don’t know what kind of mental battle you’ll have to go through,” Doughty said. “All in all, I felt good. You always have stuff to work on, like everything in football.”
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