Their chances seemed slim from the start, and the sparse collection of NFL scouts at Fresno State’s Pro Day wasn’t any more encouraging.
This was not the spring of 2014 when the star power of former Bulldogs Derek Carr and Davante Adams attracted scouts, coaches and executives from at least 23 NFL teams.
None of the 13 athletes who participated Wednesday in Fresno State’s Pro Day was considered good enough to warrant an invitation to last month’s NFL combine. Nonetheless, each relished the opportunity to somehow get noticed in the hope of earning an opportunity to keep playing.
And after some of their notable measurements and times, a few NFL teams might be wishing they’d come out Wednesday to have seen it for themselves.
“I still have a lot of football in me. Oh, yeah,” said running back Marteze Waller, one of five players in Fresno State history to reach 3,000 career rushing yards after finishing with 3,108.
The players ran a series of drills, the same ones held at the combine: The 40-yard dash, three-cone drill and shuttle run. Then the vertical jump, broad jump and bench press.
The majority of the players dedicated the past three months training for this day.
Nerves would get in the way for some. Natural ability would shine for others.
“Man, this is the most stressful time of my life,” said Charles Washington, who is hoping to play cornerback or nickel back at the next level after starting his Fresno State career at safety then moving everywhere in the defensive backfield. “You train two, three months for a day like this. The numbers speak for itself.”
NFL scouts kept track each time, with their stop watches and notepads always in hand and their eyes locked on the athlete. Because maybe as much as players want to impress them, scouts don’t want to miss spotting a hidden gem – such as former Bulldogs offensive lineman Cody Wichmann, who concluded his career in 2014.
The four-year starter didn’t participate in last year’s combine, performed well at Pro Day, got drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the sixth round and was starting for them by the middle of last season.
Who shined Wednesday?
The 5-foot-11, 197-pound Washington wowed those in attendance with a 41-inch vertical, which would have tied for second among cornerbacks and third overall at the NFL combine.
He also caught every pass during a defensive back drill and ran the 40-yard sprint in 4.44 seconds, which would have been just outside of the top 15 among all positions at the combine.
“Nerve-racking, unlike anything I’ve been through,” Washington said. “But the process as a whole was fun.
“Hamstrings got tight on me today. I was shooting for a low 4.3 (in the 40). I’m excited, tested well. I’m just waiting to see what’s next.”
The 5-foot-11, 215-pound Waller logged 23 reps while bench-pressing 225 pounds, a mark that would have tied for seventh among running backs at the combine.
“I tried to do my best to prove that I belong,” Waller said. “I was nervous, very nervous. As I got out here, everything calmed down.”
Ejiro Ederaine, the 6-foot-3 linebacker who had gained 16 pounds since he last put on a Bulldogs uniform to weigh in at 242 pounds at the Pro Day, cleared 9 feet, 8 inches in the standing broad jump – a mark that would have tied for 15th among linebackers at the combine. He also had 19 reps at bench press, which would have tied for 13th among linebackers at the combine.
All times and measurements were unofficial.
“You come out here with a little chip on your shoulder,” Ederaine said. “This has been a dream that I’ve had since I started playing the sport. The biggest thing to me is if you get drafted or don’t get drafted, my goal is to get into a camp. You get into a camp, it’s all about earning it. To me, it’s worth it.”