Bulldog Football Players Go Through Paces Of NFL Pro Day

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Several Bulldogs, including receiver Chad Bumphis here, showed their skills during Pro Day on Wednesday in the Palmeiro Center.
Photo Courtesy of Bill Simmonds

By Bob Carskadon

In front of 30 NFL teams, a horde of family members and all of their teammates, several former Mississippi State players had the biggest job interview of their lives.

MSU's NFL Pro Day took place Wednesday morning, stretching into the afternoon, an opportunity for several Bulldogs to show their mettle to scouts from around the country.

Within a group of around a dozen, millions of dollars were on the line.

Guys like Johnthan Banks and Chad Bumphis had four years of game tape, but their last hurdle was proving to teams that they also have the necessary speed.

Banks, who ran a 4.61-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, managed to improve on his time significantly, being hand-clocked as low as a very unofficial 4.51, impressing scouts and possibly cementing his status as a first-round pick in April.

As he left the field at the Palmeiro Center, he was all smiles. He had even improved on a few other of his already-impressive measurables, as well.

Bumphis's day was similarly successful.

"I think they were a little surprised by how fast I ran," Bumphis said.

The slot receiver and four-year starter at MSU was unofficially timed in the low 4.5s and was particularly impressive in agility drills, clocking fast and smooth runs in the 60-yard shuttle, 3-cone and L-cone drills.

Even Josh Boyd, a 300-plus pound defensive lineman, managed to improve his times from the combine, as his stock has continued to grow since earning a late invite to the Senior Bowl.

Darius Slay, the fastest defensive back at the combine, chose to sit out most of the drills, but weighed in and tried his hand at the vertical and broad jumps.

Several other former Bulldogs took part in the action, as well.

Linebacker Cam Lawrence put on some weight and still moved well in front of scouts, while defensive tackle Devin Jones actually dropped a few pounds and worked out as linebacker. Jones had one of the more impressive days, timing out faster than scouts expected in most drills and having one of the longest broad jumps of those who participated.

Receivers like Chris Smith, Brandon Heavens and Arceto Clark got in on the action, hoping to catch the eyes of scouts, and all the receivers were catching passes from someone they know well: Chris Relf.

Relf himself is trying to get on a football team somewhere, preferably as a quarterback, but wherever they'll take him. He said he's talked with several Canadian Football League teams and is just trying to get into a CFL or NFL camp now, hoping to make an impression once he's there. He said he felt good about his 40-yard dash, saying it was in the 4.8-second range, and because he was the only quarterback at Pro Day (current players are prohibited from participating), he had plenty of opportunities to showcase himself, working with each receiver who went through drills.

Plenty more defensive players were showcased, as Louis Watson and Damien Anderson both worked with the defensive backs, then defensive linemen Dewayne Cherrington and Shane McCardell got in the mix, as well.

Cherrington, the biggest player there as a nose tackle, also had one of the more impressive stats as he put up 36 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press.

However, the whole day started before players even arrived.

At 9 a.m. in the team room, head coach Dan Mullen, strength coach Matt Balis and athletic trainer Justin Gremillion spoke in front of all the scouts in town.

"If you get one of my guys and they give you a hard time, call me," Mullen said. "I'll get fixed."

Though, as he went on to say, the types of players he coaches and sends it to the world are not the ones who typically need reprimanding.

As business-like as he could be, Mullen stood at the front of the room and went down the list of players, telling the scouts whatever they wanted to know. What kind of person they are, if they have or haven't got in trouble, their strengths, their weaknesses, what makes them tick. Whatever was applicable.

He did his best to change the verbiage, but one phrase seemed to come up for nearly every player, as Mullen constantly referred to his guys as hard workers and high-character people.

That much became clear when he talked about Banks the Thorpe Award winner.

"When he has free time, he rides horses," Mullen said. In describing Banks' athleticism, Mullen said he was not only the emergency quarterback last season, but "probably would've been our best receiver."

Mullen went through the story of Slay, who had to go to junior college first and then only had a minimal role his first year.

The head coach said they moved Corey Broomfield in 2012 because they had to make sure Slay was on the field.

"He's just scratching the surface," Mullen said.

He did his best to be objective, forthright and honest, but when he got to one of his star players, he couldn't find much that wasn't positive.

"3.8 GPA, team captain, never had a discipline issue as long as he's been here. There's not one negative thing I can say about Cam Lawrence," Mullen said.

From there, the testing began, moving to the new weight room in the Seal Football Complex. In the expansive area, players were measured for height and weight, tested for various jumping abilities and observed as they benched as much as they could.

As Bumphis prepped for his broad jump, Banks stood next to him cheering and clapping.

"Get money!"

Over at the vertical jump, Balis encourages one of his corners.

"Get high, Slay!"

"I'm trying," Slay said with a laugh.

Moving to the Palmeiro Center's indoor field on a cold day, former Bulldogs and current NFL players Vick Ballard and Charles Mitchell watched their former teammates run through speed drills, agilities and positional workouts.

As players stretched in groups, Banks jogged and stretched on his own to the side, headphones turned up and a million-dollar weight on his shoulders.

The 40-yard dash - his most important event - was the first one up. Knowing he had two tries, the crowd was loose on Banks' first run.

The second time Banks stepped up to the start line, the entire Palmeiro Center went dead silent. As Banks stood on the opposite end of the field, Mullen emerged from the crowd.

He held his hand up, walked down to his star, put his arm on his shoulder and whispered something in his ear.

The talk didn't last long.

Mullen stepped behind Banks, then watched as the nation's top defensive back ran the fastest time of his post-MSU career.

Once the athletic festivities ended, lunch was served, scouts chatted it up with players of interest and the footballs were put into bags, ending MSU's 2013 NFL Pro Day.


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