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Monday, June 17, 2024
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A Different Kind of Job Interview

Buffalo seniors work out for scouts at UB's Pro Day

Most people only need one conversation to land a job. For some, potential employment requires a bit more.

On Thursday morning, members of the football team worked out for NFL scouts at the program's annual Pro Day. The event was held in the field house at the Bills' Ralph Wilson Stadium and was attended by representatives from nearly a dozen NFL teams, including the Jacksonville Jaguars, New Orleans Saints, and New York Jets.

For many of the Bulls, the Pro Day is the only chance that they will have to show off their skills to pro scouts. This, along with the uncertainty that comes with the entire draft process, makes for a stressful experience for the athletes.

Luckily for the Bulls, there are former teammates and current professional players to help them through the next couple of months.

"I talked to a couple of [the players] last night," said Bills' wide receiver Naaman Roosevelt. "I told them not to think too much. Just go out there and do what you've been doing for the last couple of months. You're going out there to run, and you've been running your whole life, so just go out and do it."

Although the workout was open to all juniors and seniors, the biggest draw was the team's senior defensive backs.

The Bull's top recruits were cornerback Josh Thomas, and safeties Davonte Shannon and Dominic Cook. Thomas has been garnering the most attention with his performances at the East-West Shrine game and at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, Ind.

Thomas put up impressive numbers at the Pro Day, most notably his unofficial 10-foot 8-inch broad jump, which would be better than the combine mark of LSU's Patrick Peterson, who is regarded as one of the best players in the nation.

Many believed that Thomas would relax at the Pro Day after his successful work out at the combine, but to the delight of those in attendance, he worked out in every drill. He does not want to waste any opportunity to show what he can do for an NFL team.

"You only get one shot, one opportunity," Thomas said. "I don't want to look back and say I could have run faster or jumped higher. I want to win a Super Bowl. That's the ultimate goal, multiple Super Bowls. I'm going to go in there, crack the starting line up immediately, play on special teams, and be a Pro Bowler within the first two years."

Even though Thomas has gained a high level of exposure, he is not the only Bull who has caught the eye of pro scouts.

Shannon has been a dominating force for the Bulls since the day he walked onto campus. Professional teams have taken notice of the safety, but questions about his speed have been present for years.

His early day workout was superb. He, along with Cook, put up an unofficial 18 reps on the bench press. This number would put them at the top of the defensive back rankings compared to the NFL Combine results.

He also wowed the crowd by jumping above the vertical leap limit. Unfortunately, disaster struck during his 40-yard dash. Shannon pulled his lower hamstring during his second run and was forced to sit out the rest of the day's drills.

The injury could not have come at a worse time, as scouts were looking for Shannon to alleviate worry about his speed during the drill. Despite the setback, he will do his best to stay positive.

"Hopefully the scouts liked me so far," Shannon said. "I'll just leave it in their hands and leave it in God's hands. It's a little disappointing because you train so hard since the football season is over to get to now and really showcase your talents to the scouts. I'll stay positive and go from there."

The professional game is obviously very different from the college game. Some players must find a way to adapt to that change by giving themselves a deeper understanding of the game and learning new positions. This is exactly what linebacker Justin Winters did.

Winters spent his time with the Bulls playing in the middle of the defense, but he worked out with the defensive backs during the Pro Day to show the scouts that he can be utilized as a safety in the NFL.

"I'm opening up my options," Winters said. "I can play both linebacker and safety. I can run with the receivers and I can hit with the linemen, so I just wanted to show the scouts that I can do both and then let my film talk for me."

Although the NFL is the ultimate goal of all up-and-coming football players, not all of the Bulls' prospects will be able to sign with an NFL team. There are many ways to get to the NFL, however, as former Bull Drew Willy knows.

Willy moved from team to team when he first left school, and last season, found himself playing for the UFL's Las Vegas Locomotives. He believes that players who do not get drafted or signed immediately should not worry as long as they keep working.

"There are a lot of ways to get to the NFL," Willy said. "In the UFL, there is definitely a lot of talent and there are guys with a lot of experience. You also have the CFL and the Arena League, so there's football everywhere and we know a lot of guys in every league, but getting to the NFL is the ultimate goal."

The next few months will be crucial for these athletes as they look to make the jump to the next level of the competition. With the NFL draft scheduled for April 28, there is not much time before these athletes will see what colors they will be trading their blue and whites in for.

E-mail: sports@ubspectrum.com


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