University of Tulsa football players Shawn Jackson, Trey Watts and others showed off for pro scouts Tuesday at the TU pro day at Chapman Stadium.
Since they were not among the college players invited to the NFL Draft Combine in February, this was a chance for Jackson, Watts and others to perform the same tasks in front of pro scouts using their own facilities.
In front of representatives from 18 NFL teams, as well one from the Canadian Football League, the TU seniors were put through several tests of strength, speed and endurance before displaying their skills during a few practice drills.
NFL teams such as the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, New York Jets, Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders, Indianapolis Colts, Dallas Cowboys, Miami Dolphins, Kansas City Chiefs and St. Louis Rams were in attendance.
“I’m definitely tired, but I think I had a pretty good day,” said Watts, the Golden Hurricane running back who gained 1,329 yards rushing in his final season of college eligibility. “I caught the ball well, ran the ball well, and just had to come out here and try to do my best, and God will take care of the rest.”
Watts posted a 4.69 40-yard dash.
For Jackson, Tulsa’s star linebacker who was named Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year as a senior, it was just a case of trying to make a positive impression.
“I haven’t looked at the numbers yet, but it felt like I ran pretty good and moved good,” said the 5-10, 255-pound Jackson, who ran a 4.84 40-yard dash. “It was a good day. It’s exciting to perform for these guys, get your adrenaline going a little bit. I just wanted to come out here and have a solid day, put up some solid numbers and pray someone takes a chance on me and gives me an opportunity.”
In addition to Jackson and Watts, other TU seniors taking part in the day’s activities were quarterback Cody Green, offensive tackle Stetson Burnett, running back Ja’Terian Douglas, receiver Jordan James, linebacker DeWitt Jennings, and receiver Bryan Burnham, who didn’t play in 2013 after missing the 2012 season with a knee injury.
Burnham's 4.48 40-yard dash was the day's best and his 37.5-inch vertical jump was best among the TU players.
Burnett had the most impressive bench press as he did 31 reps of 225 pounds. Jennings had 22 reps.
Five other non-Tulsa players also participated, including three from East Central University in Ada.
First, in the TU weight room, the players were measured for height, weight, wingspan, and even the distance between their fingers on a spread-out hand, as well as vertical leap height and the number of repetitions they could do while bench pressing 225 pounds.
Then the procession moved out to the stadium, where they performed the broad jump, the 40-yard dash, a 60-yard shuttle run and several other running, passing and kick return drills.
It was an informative session for the scouts on hand, who weren’t necessarily going to rank all the players based on their 40-time, but were just looking for a more complete picture of each player beyond their game film from last season.
“A lot of times you don’t get the chance to see these guys in person, you see them on tape,” noted Cincinnati Bengals running backs coach Kyle Caskey. “You get to see how they react around other people and, because they look different in pads than in person, you get to see their body structure, how they’re built, how they compete in the weight room, how they do strength-wise. And then you want to talk to them, spend more time to get to know them as a person, and you also want to talk to other people around campus to find out what they think of them.”
Caskey spent some time working with Watts on some drills and had a lengthy conversation with him afterwards.
Watts admitted the experience had him experiencing some butterflies, but was happy with how it turned out.
“You’ve never really done anything like this before,” Watts said of performing for the scouts. “You know what to expect, but once you step on that line, it’s a little nerve-wracking and you have to remind yourself to take deep breaths and relax and just do what you’ve been doing. Some of (the scouts) say they’re interested but they won’t say if they’re going to draft you or anything like that. But if they’re talking to you, at least you feel they’re interested enough to hear your voice, see your face and so you feel encouraged by it.”