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Bulldogs Showcase Skills in Front of 30 NFL Teams at Pro Day

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Chris Jones, a potential first round pick, works on defensive line drills.
Photo Courtesy of Kelly Price

STARKVILLE, Miss. – Nearly 40 NFL personnel watched Mississippi State players eligible for the 2016 NFL Draft showcase their skills at MSU Pro Day on Thursday morning in the Palmeiro Center.

Thirty of 32 NFL teams appeared at Pro Day, not including the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks who interviewed respective Bulldogs at the NFL Combine last month. The Pro Day workout was televised nationally on SEC Network and highlights will appear on Thursday evening on NFL Network.

“It is a lot of fun because our guys are getting to try to fulfill their dreams of playing professional football,” said MSU head coach Dan Mullen. “When you have been there with a lot of these guys, you take a lot of pride in what they have done. We treat them like they are our own kids, so it is a lot of fun.”

Defensive tackle Chris Jones, who has been projected as a late first round to early second round pick, improved his vertical jump to 29.5 inches and went through an individual on-field workout. Quarterback Dak Prescott posted solid numbers at the NFL Combine and only went through a throwing session with some of his former teammates on Thursday.

“It’s (Pro Day) grown over the last couple of years, but that’s also how the program has been changing with expectations,” said Prescott. “People want to come in and see what’s going on. We’ve got more players going to the NFL and making that transition. It’s important.”

Wide receiver De’Runnya Wilson improved on each of his tests, notching a 4.78 in the 40-yard dash, raising his vertical jump and recording 9-4 in the broad jump. At 6-foot-5, he was the tallest of the wide receivers at the NFL Combine. In the past two years, Wilson has been a playmaker for the Bulldogs, racking up 1,949 yards receiving and 22 touchdowns – a mark that ranks second in school history. Eight of his 22 scores came on third down.

Cornerback Taveze Calhoun made the most of his day, posting a 35.5-inch vertical jump, up from his 33.5 at the NFL Combine, and recording a 9-8 in the broad jump. Linebacker Beniquez Brown improved his 40-yard dash time from the NFL Combine, clocking 4.71 on Thursday. Calhoun and Brown both went through positional workouts on the field with scouts.

Current NFL Bulldogs made their way back to Starkville to cheer on the future pros, including Super Bowl champion linebacker K.J. Wright of the Seahawks, Josh Boyd of the Green Bay Packers and Preston Smith of the Washington Redskins. Smith led all NFL rookies in sacks last year.

The draft eligible Bulldogs will continue preparing for the 2016 NFL Draft, which takes place April 28-30 in Chicago. MSU players can still have individual workouts with teams until the draft. 

Eighteen Bulldogs have been chosen in the NFL Draft under head coach Dan Mullen’s watch since 2010, including the most since 1995 with five last year.

Below are quotes from Thursday’s Pro Day:

QB Dak Prescott

On performance a MSU Pro Day…

“It was a solid performance. I think I did a good job transitioning my body weight from under center and into my throws. I did miss a couple of throws I wish I could have back.”

On watching Pro Day the past few years to now participating…

“It’s a humbling experience. Obviously, the last four or five years coming in here and trying to get out of class early to try and catch it. But to be a part of it now is very humbling and exciting. I’m ready for what’s next.”

On the growth of the on-campus Pro Day…

“It’s grown over the last couple of years, but that’s also how the program has been changing with expectations. People want to come in and see what’s going on. We’ve got more players going to the NFL and making that transition. It’s important.”

On workout schedule…

“It’s about time management. I come in and knock out a good session. Sometimes I’ll take five hours and start with the weights. There not too much conditioning going on. I should have slowed down a little bit out there today. Other than that I’m working on my foot work most importantly and making those throws with timing.”

On draft stock…

“I think I’ve helped myself. From the Senior Bowl until now, including the combine, I think I’ve had a solid performance all the way through. I don’t think I’ve done anything to hinder my grade or where I’ll go in the draft. I’m pretty excited with where I’m going.”

On showing scouts arm strength…

“It’s been really fun. Earlier in my career I wasn’t that great of a thrower, but time and work I’ve put into it, for it to be one of my strengths, it’s been fun to go out here and showcase it.”

On the process of preparing for the draft…

“It’s been fun. The relationships I get to make with the coaches, the scouts, the Senior Bowl, the NFL Combine, the other players, maybe future teammates or other quarterbacks I’ll play against or see in camp one day. It’s been pretty fun. I think that’s what I’ve enjoyed the most about it. Then I put everything behind me when I come onto the field and just make the throws and enjoy everything that’s going on.”

On searching for an offensive fit in the NFL…

“I’m the type of guy that wants a playbook. I just want to get my foot in the door at this time and study that playbook. I feel like I can play in any offense.”

DT Chris Jones

On performance at Pro Day…

“I think it went well. I had great possession. I worked hard. I think that’s what (scouts) wanted to see from me today, to work hard and finish every drill. I think it went well.”

On what scouts wanted to see…

“They wanted to see me work hard. They want to see me finish every drill. They want to make sure I pay attention to detail, the smaller details when you’re tired and overwork you, to see how you pay attention to the smaller things.”

On schedule …

“Just eat good, sleep well and get a lot of rest. I have to train every day and make sure my body is intact. I’m also trying to maintain my weight and try to stay at a constant weight.”

On weight maintenance…

“Right now I’m at 310.5 and I’d like to lose 10 more pounds. That will be my goal weight. It’s been a rough journey. I ended up losing 14 pounds before the combine. I’m trying to work on that extra 10. It’s been rough. For a big guy like me, I love to eat.”

On improvements since NFL Combine…

“I think I’ve helped myself a lot by losing weight and being committed. That was a big sacrifice for me, being committed to whatever I do – workouts, weight, eating right. I think I helped myself out a lot and improved since the combine.”

On defensive fit in the NFL…

“Anywhere. I can play a 3-4 in or a 4-3 tackle. Anywhere I go will be a good fit for me.”

WR De’Runnya Wilson

On improvements from the NFL Combine…

“One of the main things I tried to do out here is remain focused. Whatever happens, don’t get down. Use whatever happens as motivation to push forward.”

On performance at Pro Day…

“I’m pretty satisfied. More satisfied than I was at the combine. The main thing is I was focused. I was at home. I was reliable. I felt my teammates pumping me up. I felt comfortable. Things went well for me.”

Head Coach Dan Mullen

On Pro Day…

“It is a lot of fun because our guys are getting to try to fulfill their dream of playing professional football. When you have been there with a lot of these guys, you take a lot of pride in what they have done. We treat them like they are our own kids, so it is a lot of fun. It is fun to watch them compete and hopefully go live their dreams.”

On the benefit of having guys that can go to the NFL after three years…

“I think that people are seeing that Mississippi State is developing players as well as any school in the country. It does not matter if you are a five-star or a two-star, you are getting developed to have an opportunity to go play at the next level. The number of players we are putting into the NFL really shows that compared to other schools.”

On Dak Prescott displaying his potential to scouts…

“I think that it is huge. The quarterback is going to be the face of that organization in the NFL. I think they are looking at a young guy that was really the face of our organization here and he knows how to handle that pressure, carry himself, present himself and is going to present you in a great way on and off the field. I think everybody has watched his growth and development each year and his constant improvement. The scouts that have studied him from one year to the next have seen that constant improvement and his ability to continue to improve in the future.”


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