Photo gallery (photos by Allen Sharpe)
For 15 former South Carolina football players, Tuesday, March 14, was a huge day. It was a three hour job interview for the occupation of their dreams – the NFL.
South Carolina held its annual Pro Day, giving those former players a chance to work out in front of scouts representing 17 NFL teams and one Canadian team. First, the players went through measurements and weight workouts before heading out to the indoor practice facility to go through speed measurements and position drills.
None of the former players were invited to the NFL combine last month, so Tuesday's Pro Day was made even more important because it marked the only chance some of the Gamecocks would get to work out in front of NFL scouts.
That leaves one chance to make a lasting impression.
"That's every kid's dream, right?" offensive lineman Mason Zandi said. "Make the NFL their full-time job. I love every second of it."
The Pro Day is a chance for players to answer any lingering questions scouts have about them. It is usually one of the last chances to make an impression before the NFL Draft rolls around. Placekicker Elliott Fry felt like he did just that on Tuesday.
"The question with me has always been about leg strength," Fry said. "I think I kind of proved (I'm good) with my field goal range and kickoffs here."
For linebacker Jonathan Walton, he wanted to show a little extra at Pro Day. He decided to go through running back drills with the scouts. Playing in the backfield is something that Walton has always been fond of, and he briefly received the chance to play tailback for the Gamecocks during his career.
"I like to show versatility," Walton said. "I played it in high school. Any way I can get on a team, I'll do it. I love special teams, offense, defense, I love doing it all. Why not give it a shot?"
Because of a recent rule change in the NCAA, three South Carolina underclassmen were able to go through workouts as well. Zack Bailey, Deebo Samuel and Hayden Hurst participated in the measurements, but didn't take part in any drills. It was still an important experience that head coach Will Muschamp said would help them make better decisions when they have to decide whether they want to leave college early.
As a former NFL assistant himself, Muschamp knows exactly what the scouts are looking for, and he relayed that to his players.
"Having been at the Miami Dolphins and going through the draft process, you're looking at certain change of direction and some workouts you're looking to see if a guy can fight through some fatigue, and obviously you want to time well," Muschamp said. "They've all been trained to put themselves in the best position to hopefully make an NFL team."
While there is certainly a lot of emphasis placed on times and performances in drills, Muschamp hopes the scouts don't forget about game tape. Several Gamecocks that are eligible for the draft put up impressive numbers last season, and showed that they can put in the work to make an impact on a team.
"At the end of the day it's going to come back to the tape," Muschamp said. "You don't play football in shorts."
Official individual results from South Carolina's Pro Day:
**Story by Kyle Heck/photo by Allen Sharpe**