HUNTINGTON - Fourteen Marshall University students were given the biggest job interviews of their lives Wednesday morning.
All were Thundering Herd football players working out for 21 scouts from the NFL and two from the CFL at the Chris Cline Indoor Athletic Center. Scouts put players through a series of drills, measuring their vertical and horizontal leaping abilities, speed over 40 yards and ability to bench press 225 pounds. Players also participated in agility drills, as well as tasks specific to their respective positions.
While scouts declined to comment on what they saw, wide receiver/kick returner Deandre Reaves undoubtedly made an impression with his speed, hands and route running ability. Running back Devon Johnson, the only Marshall player invited to the NFL Combine last month, was among the most-watched players.
"It feels great to be back out there competing again," said Johnson, who missed most of his senior season with injuries after rushing for 1,767 yards as a junior. "Out there getting after it was fun."
Johnson, who grew up in Richlands, Va., as a fan of the Minnesota Vikings, said he doesn't know what to expect from the NFL Draft on April 28-30. He might be selected, signed as a free agent after the draft or opt for the CFL, where former teammates Rakeem Cato and Tommy Shuler played last season for the Montreal Alouettes.
"No pressure," Johnson said. "This is the game I love. I'll come out here and give it 110 percent no matter what. If it's meant for me to go on to the next level and play football, it's meant to be. God has his hands on me. He has his hands on all of us. If it's meant for me to play football, it's up to God. I'm not going to assume anything. I'm going to be with my family. If I get the phone call, I get the phone call. If I don't, God has other plans for me."
A Vikings scout attended MU's Pro Day, as did NFL scouts from the Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Rams, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Washington Redskins. The Browns and Eagles were represented by two scouts. The Bengals, Eagles and Lions sent running backs coaches.
Also in attendance were scouts from the CFL's British Columbia Lions and Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Eagles running backs coach Duce Staley, who played 10 NFL seasons with the Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers, was part of the scouting contingent. He said he was impressed with what he saw.
"They did an awesome job today," Staley said. "We're happy to come down here to Marshall. Marshall, I tell you man, they put a lot of talent out there. (Former Herd star and current Eagles defensive end) Vinny Curry is from down here. He's one of my best friends. Awesome guy, awesome player. We look forward to coming to Marshall every year."
Herd coach Doc Holliday observed the workouts and talked with scouts throughout Pro Day. Holliday said he'll miss the 14 players leaving the program but is thrilled they had the opportunity to display their talents for pro scouts.
"All the kids, they ran some really good times, ran extremely well, jumped extremely high," Holliday said. "It's hard to get to this point. They all have thegoal and dream to play in the NFL. This is the first step for a lot of them to showcase their talents. They ran really well. 4.3 is a fast time. (Linebacker D.J. Hunter and cornerback Keith Baxter) ran that time. (Safety Taj Letman) ran really well. I think he was in the 4.4s. Anytime you can run 4.5 or faster, you're fast. We had some really fast guys out here today. The good news is they ran really fast. The bad news is they're not playing for us next year with all that speed. All that speed's going elsewhere, so we have to find some more of it."
Hunter officially ran a 4.40 40-yard dash, but said he was timed by an Eagles' scout at 4.38, which is almost unheard of by a linebacker. Hunter's 4.40 tied Baxter for the fastest sprint of the day. Hunter also owned the best vertical leap, 39.5 inches, and broad jump 10 feet, 10 inches. Offensive lineman Sebastian Johansson performed the best in the bench press, lifting 225 pounds 26 times.
After the indoor workout, Reaves, punter Tyler Williams and longsnapper Matt Cincotta moved to Joan C. Edwards Stadium to allow scouts a further look. When that session concluded, players headed into the Shewey Building for interviews.