Eighteen Gamecocks took part Wednesday in a muscle-straining and energy-draining job audition at Williams-Brice Stadium.
For the 11 who weren’t invited to last month’s NFL Combine, South Carolina’s annual pro timing day workout in front of family, fans, former teammates and scouts took on added importance.
“It’s your chance to shine,” linebacker Shaq Wilson said. “You have to come out here and do your best.”
South Carolina’s draft-eligible players took part in the standing broad jump, vertical jump and bench press in the stadium weight room. On the field, most ran in the 40-yard dash, the short shuttle and the three-cone drill before splitting up into positional workouts. Thirty-one of the 32 NFL teams were represented.
The journey from the Outback Bowl to a shot at an NFL career is not without its stresses and uncertainties, running back Kenny Miles said.
“You don’t know what’s going through the scouts’ minds. That gets unsettling at times,” said Miles, who had the team’s fastest 40-yard dash time with 4.5 seconds. “It’s a little stressful, but you’ve been training your whole life for a moment like this. It’s a great opportunity to come out here and be with the guys for the last time and work in front of some NFL scouts.”
The NFL Draft is April 25-27.
HOME SWEET HOME
Wednesday’s workout served as a reunion for players past and present.
Current Gamecocks such as Jadeveon Clowney and Connor Shaw mingled with the pro day participants and NFL players Alshon Jeffery, Melvin Ingram and Stephon Gilmore.
“I hate to leave this place,” said offensive lineman T.J. Johnson, who started all 53 games of his USC career. “I’ve told a lot of people I couldn’t have picked a better time to be a Gamecock.”
The school’s pro day was a more relaxed environment than the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, players said. There was also sentimental value in working out one last time in Williams-Brice Stadium.
“We’re still a team. We’ll always be a team,” linebacker DeVonte Holloman said. “We pushed each other today and encouraged each other to do our best. We still had a team feel even though we know that we’re going our separate ways.”
SANDERS SPEEDS UP
Ace Sanders’ pro day goals were as much about his hands as they were his legs.
“I wanted to show I could catch with my hands,” Sanders said. “I had to catch the ball away from my body, and I did that today.”
The wide receiver and punt returner also improved his 40-yard dash from 4.58 seconds in Indianapolis to 4.56 in Columbia.
And to close out pro day, already holding three balls, Sanders caught a fourth ball, something he said he’s never done before.
Players take different routes in various locales in their NFL preparations.
Marcus Lattimore and D.J. Swearinger have trained at an Athletes’ Performance center in Florida. Holloman, who worked out with that company’s center in Texas, is home in the Carolinas now and training in Charlotte.
Linebacker Damario Jeffery, who is still in school, is among those who stayed in Columbia and worked out with South Carolina’s strength and conditioning staff.
Wilson trained at The Hit Center his hometown of Jacksonville, Fla., which carried the added bonus of being able to see his 4-year-old daughter every day, something he couldn’t do while in college.
“I wanted to be down there with her be able to take her to school in the morning and be able to pick her up,” he said. “I worked out while she’s in school. I see her daily and help her with her homework.”
SLEEPLESS IN INDIANAPOLIS
Pro timing day has one advantage over the NFL Combine, Holloman said: extra shut-eye. In three days in Indianapolis, Holloman estimated he got about 12 hours of sleep.
“They keep you up all night meeting and you’re up the next morning on the go,” he said. “It’s amazing that even the coaches had energy to see the next day.”
Holloman, who ran a 4.76 in the 40-yard dash at the Combine, ran a 4.79 on Wednesday. He did not participate in most of the other pro day drills.
Damario Jeffery was pleased with his pro day workout, describing it as “great” and “awesome.”
“I showed that I was athletic in everything I did,” he said. “It’s a passing game these days and everybody wants to see your linebackers get out and run. I think I showed that I can be a three-down linebacker.”
Jeffery had the sixth-fastest 40 time (4.73 seconds), highest vertical jump (37.5 inches) and the best broad jump (10 feet, 9 inches).
... T.J. Johnson tweaked a hamstring while running the 40-yard dash and did not participate in offensive line drills as planned. “The good thing is they’ve seen me at the combine,” he said.
... Defensive lineman Byron Jerideau bench-pressed 225 pounds 37 times on Wednesday, a team high. Only two players had more reps at the NFL Combine (both had 38). Aldrick Fordham (24 reps), Shaq Wilson (22) and Reginald Bowens (21) were next for USC.
... Wide receiver D.L. Moore had the day’s third-best 40-yard dash time at 4.61 seconds.
... Former USC quarterbacks Syvelle Newton and Seth Strickland threw for players during the pass-catching drills.
... South Carolina will scrimmage at 5 p.m. Thursday at Williams-Brice Stadium. It is open to public.
Kenny Miles on the advice he received about pro day: “Don’t stress. When it comes to pro day, you’re doing the same thing you’ve done for years. You’ve done it 100 times in front of the same guys in the stadium that you’ve played 100 times in. The only difference is, you’ve just got to go out there and be mentally focused and prepared.”
Video: Pro day highlights
Video: Marcus Lattimore
Video: D.J. Swearinger
PRO DAY MEASURABLES
Sorted by 40-yard dash times
|NAME||HEIGHT||WEIGHT||40 YD DASH||VERT. JUMP||BROAD JUMP||225 BENCH PRESS|