UB players try out for NFL at Buffalo's Pro Day
Bulls gather for one more chance to impress scouts at Buffalo Pro Day
Last year, all 32 NFL teams sent representatives to Ralph Wilson Fieldhouse to watch Khalil Mack run through a series of combine drills. Mack, the fifth overall pick to the Oakland Raiders that spring, was the center of attention.
This year, there was no Mack or potential top-five pick. There was no national media buzz or ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeting about 40-yard dash times in Buffalo. There were fewer scouts, reporters and cameras, but the event still highlighted former Bulls with dreams of making an NFL roster this summer.
Buffalo held its annual Pro Day at Ralph Wilson Fieldhouse Thursday. The Pro Day is crucial for draft-eligible student-athletes who hope to play make NFL rosters next season. The events of the day include the 40-yard dash, bench presses, vertical leaps along with other drills.
Eight NFL teams – Washington Redskins, Cleveland Browns, Philadelphia Eagles, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Seattle Seahawks, New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills – sent representatives to Buffalo’s Pro Day.
After completing the day, former Bulls safety Adam Redden said that this was a “relief” to him.
“Some people get out of school in November, December and train for this moment,” Redden said. “They train for this one moment. We have a slogan: ‘You call it Pro Day, we call it Pay Day.’ This could make or break you out here.”
Redden finished the event with 17 bench press reps at 225 pounds, a 37-inch vertical leap and ran an unofficial time of 4.58 in the 40-yard dash.
Redden, who solely played defense and special teams for UB, worked out with both defensive backs and wide receivers at Pro Day. He participated in various route-running and catching drills and said showing the scouts versatility was necessary for late-round draft picks and undrafted players.
“I came out here as a [defensive back] and ended up working in some wide receiver drills,” Redden said. “We’re going to have to play and do multiple things out there, whether it’s playing special teams, playing various positions, hitting, blocking, we’re going to have to be versatile enough for coaches to want to keep us around.”
Former defensive lineman Kristjan Sokoli had one of the most impressive days, which included 31 bench press reps and recorded a 38-inch vertical leap.
“I feel like it went well. You always want to do better though,” Sokoli said. “I tried to show my work ethic more than anything. Obviously, you want to show that you’re an athlete and that you’re quick-twitched, but at the end of the day, I just wanted to show them that I’m willing to work hard and be a good competitor.”
Redden and Sokoli entered the Pro Day as the two Bulls with the best chance of landing in a training camp this summer. But they weren’t the only ones trying to change the minds of scouts.
Former cornerback Cortney Lester finished the day with 10 bench press reps and a 32.5-inch vertical leap. Like Redden, Lester also competed in both defensive back and wide receiver drills.
Former offensive lineman Trevor Sales’ day included 29 bench press reps and a 28-inch vertical leap. Former offensive tackle Andre Davis finished with 23 bench press reps, recorded a 32.5-inch vertical leap and registered an unofficial time of 4.89 in the 40-yard dash. Former linebacker Lee Skinner ended the day with 29 bench press reps and a 37-inch vertical leap.
The biggest surprise of the day may have been Davis’ 4.89 40-yard dash time. Davis was listed at 6-foot-4, 318 pounds this season.
“I didn’t think I was going to run that fast,” Davis said. “It was something I wanted to work on and make sure that I could do my best when I got out here in front of people. Getting that low 4.8 shocked me when I heard it the first time.”
Twelve Bulls and 14 total players participated in Pro Day. Although all 32 teams weren’t represented like last year’s event, NFL teams still traveled to Buffalo to see if there were players worthy of late-round picks or offseason training camp invitees.
New Buffalo head coach Lance Leipold joined the fray during Thursday’s Pro Day. Despite not coaching any of the players auditioning on the field, Leipold said their performance and success only helps the Bulls program moving forward.
“Being here means they get a chance to play at the next level and a better chance to get into a camp next summer,” Leipold said. “For our program, it shows that you can go to a MAC school and play at the next level. For the kids coming in, it’s an example of what could happen as you move through the program.”
Redden, after hearing coach Leipold’s comments about the victory for the program, agreed. Redden, a Buffalo native, was thankful to represent Buffalo football.
“Our success would mean a lot to the 716,” Redden said, wearing local high school St. Francis’ shirt. “We have talent, want to show that we have talent and continue down the road that Khalil Mack and [Bulls’ all-time leading rusher Brandon Oliver] set for us last season. We’re blessed to be out here, getting a chance to continue that.”
The NFL draft is a three-day event that starts Thursday, April 30 and ends Saturday, May 2. After May 2, unsigned players can begin negotiations with NFL teams.
Quentin Haynes is a sports editor and can be reached at email@example.com