All-American center Dalton Freeman’s aggravation fueled the motivation to achieve a measure of vindication Wednesday during football Pro Day at Clemson.
Snubbed by the NFL Combine, Freeman channeled his anger into a performance superior to every center and most of the guards evaluated at Indianapolis last month.
“Obviously, I was a little disappointed,” Freeman said after the workout for representatives from every NFL team except Chicago.
“I felt that I deserved to be there,” he said. “I had a great career here, and I think I outperformed most of those guys today. Hopefully, I proved to everybody that I deserve to be in this league.”
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Former Tigers center Dustin Fry, a fifth-round pick by St. Louis in 2006 and now a graduate assistant on the Clemson staff, said Freeman “tested off the charts today. It was impressive.”
A lackluster week of practice at the Senior Bowl perhaps left a sour impression with scouts, so Freeman prepared with a vengeance. Playing weight had been an issue, but Freeman felt he needed to be lean to survive in Chad Morris’ scheme.
Freeman, who is from Pelion, said he hit 295 this week and weighed 291 Wednesday, which Fry said was “perfect.”
Freeman’s numbers in the skills and drills would have turned heads at Indianapolis. Eight centers were there. Two offensive linemen — at any position — were faster in the 40 than his 4.88. His 114-inch standing long jump was third to two tackles. Eight players overall, including three linemen, had more than his 34 reps in the bench press. The best was 38.
“It was one of those things I say I was glad I did it (only) once,” Freeman said.
Knowing versatility would also be valuable, at 6-feet-4½ Freeman is tall enough to be a guard. And, last week he began working on long snaps.
Like several of his former teammates among the dozen who worked out for scouts at Clemson’s new indoor facility, Freeman said he’ll continue to work on his strength and conditioning, possibly visit a few teams for more intimate workouts.
One scout said he could see Freeman go undrafted then sign as a free agent and wind up playing in the NFL for 10 years or more.
“The hay is in the barn. He’s done all he can do,” Fry said. “He looks good. He’s a perfect weight right now.
“He’s been going at it since last July. He needs to find a little bit of rest time.”