A group of NFL hopefuls put their dreams on the line this afternoon as NFL scouts dissected their every move, physical attribute or liability, and every neuron capable of grasping instruction and projecting it to lightning-paced position drills.
Among the participants in the Ole Miss Pro Day at the Manning Center were highly regarded NFL candidate Donte Moncrief, his receiving mates Ja-Mes Logan and Jonathan Holder; offensive lineman Pierce Burton, Evan Swindell and Emanuel McCray; linebacker Mike Mary; running back Jeff Scott; kickers Andrew Ritter and Tyler Campbell and dismissed Rebel Nick Brassell.
Moncrief eliminated some of the early excitement as he opted not to participate in the workout beyond the positions drills for receivers. His attention-grabbing 4.40 forty time in Indianapolis has already locked him in as a top prospect.
The Pro Day participants started off the morning getting weighed in and measured, before powering up as many consecutive 200-pound bench presses as they could muster. Ole Miss’ Burton heaved up 26, which he said places him in the top 10 of all offensive lineman who took part in the NFL combines in Indianapolis. “I lifted 29 last week, so I was a little disappointed,” admitted the 6-foot-5, 303-pound right tackle.
When asked how he thinks he projects in the NFL draft, Burton said he has been told to expect the late rounds or a priority free agent. “Overall, I was happy with my performance today and I think it helps prove my abilities to the NFL scouts after the upsetting experience of not being invited to the NFL combines.”
Burton says he can play either offensive tackle position and is even willing to move inside to make an NFL roster. He said one scout told him he was surprised at how athletic Burton was. He has been training at a favorite spot for NFL lineman called 4th and Inches in Dallas.
After weights and vertical leap testing, the athletes hit the practice field for their critical 40-yard dash, cone agility tests, and position drills.
HottyToddy.com will provide times and numbers for all events as they become available from Ole Mis sports.
One unexpected star of the workout to this reporter’s eye was Barry Brunetti, the Rebels back-up quarterback who appeared fast and agile in his run and cone work. When position drills began, there was Brunetti taking part with the wide receivers and more than holding his own. He didn’t drop a pass and ran patterns with the finesse of a veteran wide-out.
“I just wanted to show the scouts my versatility and I think I succeeded,” the hard-running 220-pound quarterback told HottyToddy.com. “I’m hoping to play in the NFL. I’m an athlete. I don’t really care if that’s as a wide receiver, tight end or running back. One scout told me I even have an ideal safety body.”
Brunetti’s teammate, gritty wide receiver Jonathan Holder was less satisfied with his performance at Pro Day. “I didn’t do as well as I hoped,” Holder said. “I felt a little tight and maybe it was the nerves of all the scouts and the scrutiny, but I could have definitely done better. I think I ran slower than I expected because my start was off and that’s so critical in a 40-yard dash.”
Holder says he still hopes to get a chance to make an NFL club and he’s willing to do whatever it takes. “You can do all these physical tests, but the real test of a football player is how he performs after you put the pads on.”
That’s the kind of determination that marked the entire day at the Manning Center as as many as 25 NFL scouts graded and evaluated Ole Miss players and a few athletes from other programs.
For some it was the beginning of a dream. For most it was likely the end of the trail.
Look for more on how these players progress as the NFL draft nears.
Story and photos by Andy Knef. Knef is editor of HottyToddy.com. You can contact him about this story at Andy.Knef@HottyToddy.com
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