Lining the walls of the weight room and the sidelines of the indoor training center taking in Friday’s Kentucky Pro Day festivities were more than a handful of players hoping to be participating in it a year from now.
Watching their 15 former teammates go through skills and drills for scouts from 16 NFL teams were players such as defensive backs Mike Edwards and Derrick Baity, defensive end Josh Allen, tight end C.J. Conrad and running back Benny Snell.
There’s a chance those guys will be a big part of this event soon, which is expected to draw an even bigger crowd of scouts a year from now.
“We’ve got some great guys out here and guys that did well today are going to get noticed,” said linebacker Courtney Love, who ran 4.6 and 4.77 seconds in the 40-yard dash in times taken for the SEC Network broadcast. (All scouts keep their own times and none are official at this event.)
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Love also was excited by his 24 repetitions on the bench press, which would’ve been fourth best for his position group at the NFL Combine a couple of weeks ago, as well as his 35-inch vertical jump, nearly 3 inches better than he’d done in training.
“My vertical surprised me a little bit,” Love said. “When they say you take a leap of faith, that was a leap of faith for me.”
Love didn’t have to take much of a leap to imagine the madness that might be UK’s Pro Day a year from now with those aforementioned players working out for scouts, especially players like Edwards, Allen and Conrad, who all opted to return for their senior seasons after testing the NFL Draft waters.
“It’s good to see the numbers they posted because everyone did phenomenal I think today,” Love said. “I think it’s a huge step toward boosting what’s to come next year because we’ve got some guys next year who are going to come out and I can’t wait to see.”
Love predicted there will be head coaches at UK’s Pro Day in 2019.
“I believe that,” he said, “because these guys who are coming out next year are going to be well prepared and know what’s in front of them. … I’m really excited about it and as much as I can help them, I will.”
Love wasn’t alone among players who performed well at specific events and hoped to catch the eye of scouts and perhaps work themselves into private workouts, free agent deals or even a draft selection in late April.
Here are a few other standouts and stories from the event on Friday:
Big day for Johnson
Wide receiver Garrett Johnson said he was “jumping for joy today,” and he wasn’t exaggerating after managing a 40.5 in the vertical jump to open the day.
If Johnson had been invited to the NFL Combine, that jump would’ve made him the top performer in his position group, half an inch ahead of Louisiana State’s D.J. Chalk. Only six players in the combine leapt higher this season than Johnson’s 40.5.
“That vertical. I felt good about that,” he said, noting that he previously was posting 39 inches and 38 inches regularly. “I just threw my headphones back in and stayed the course. That helped for the rest of the day.”
It also helped that his mom surprised him on his Pro Day by coming up from their home in Winter Garden, Fla.
“She tried to surprise me,” he corrected with a big grin, “acted like she wasn’t coming before. I really didn’t believe it. That definitely got me up.”
Johnson also found himself in some elite company in the 40-yard dash, where he was clocked at :4.39 and :4.42, which both would’ve been top five in his position group at the combine.
That first number had been on his wish list.
“In training, I’ve been running a lot of 4.4s,” he said. “I hadn’t touched a 4.3 yet, but I’ve been telling all my buddies I’m going to keep speaking that 4.3 into existence.”
In the only numbers that count for kickers, Austin MacGinnis probably impressed scouts by making every kick he attempted under 60 yards.
“I had a 60 that just snuck over the crossbar and a 58 that I crushed,” smiled UK’s all-time leading scorer and one of the top kickers in school history. “Overall, I think I had a good day.
“I just want to be given a shot and I know I’m even better when there’s competition, so I’m looking forward to that.”
He’s also looking forward to not having divided attention this spring, which has included working out, kicking and taking 22 credit hours toward his MBA.
The senior will graduate in May with a master’s in business administration. “I’m making it work,” he said.
Other news and notes
Ever since a devastating knee injury in the first scrimmage of the fall ended his chance of playing the 2017 season, offensive lineman Cole Mosier had been pushing himself to get ready for this day.
“That was the main goal, just getting to Pro Day and do Pro Day,” he said. “Seven or eight months out of an ACL injury isn’t a lot of time, so just being able to come out here and show them what I’ve got a little bit — even though it wasn’t where I was before surgery — I’ve still come a long way.”
Mosier has interest from 10-12 teams, who have been asking about this rehab.
He was pleased with his 28 reps on the bench press (would’ve been tied for sixth at the combine for his position group) and felt fine about his 40-yard dash times considering the injury.
“This year took a little toll on me, but I’m back now and if I make it on a team,” he said, “I’m going to make an impression.”
• Charles Walker and fellow wide-out Garrett Johnson worked extra time afterward with the Patriots scout, changing up routes and doing extra catches.
“I think that means they’re interested in you, at least that’s what I took it as, so definitely wonderful,” Walker said smiling. “Hopefully we left a good impression.”
Walker’s unofficial times in the 40 included a :4.5 and a :4.5 and his vertical was 36 inches, which would’ve been top 10 among wide receivers at the combine.
“I felt like I had a good day; I have a smile on my face,” he said. “So life’s good right now.”
• Kayaune Ross’s 20 bench press reps would have been tied for fourth best in his wide receiver group at the combine, and he was pleased with his :4.63 and :4.6 times in the 40-yard dash.