UK Football

Phillips says Pro Day a boost for Kentucky football

Randall Burden worked through drills for NFL scouts Wednesday in the Nutter Field House. Burden and several of his UK teammates are trying to impress teams in time for the April draft.
Randall Burden worked through drills for NFL scouts Wednesday in the Nutter Field House. Burden and several of his UK teammates are trying to impress teams in time for the April draft. Herald-Leader

The way to play on Sundays in front of thousands of noisy fans often involves being able to run 40 yards on a silent practice field in front of 20-plus guys with stopwatches and clipboards.

Several former University of Kentucky players are hoping their performances at the school's annual Pro Day will help them get to Sundays.

Some 23 scouts from NFL teams and the Canadian Football League were at the Nutter Field House early Wednesday morning to see 13 former Cats go through a battery of tests, starting with the 40-yard dash.

Linebacker Ronnie Sneed said the process — including the silence — was a little unnerving at first.

"When we ran it my junior year, it was intimidating," Sneed said. "I got dizzy and almost fell over at the start, but this year because I prepared so much, it wasn't as bad. I ran it like it was just me and the coaches. I put my head down and just took off."

Cornerback Anthony Mosley hopes his performance at Pro Day helps propel him to the next level.

The senior from Ellenwood, Ga., had heard from at least one scout that his time in the 40-yard dash was a personal-best of 4.3 seconds. The times are not made public during the event.

"The atmosphere today had me a little more juiced up than usual," he said.

Like Sneed, Mosley went through the motions last year to prepare for this year.

"There's more on the line this year," Mosley said. "I just hope I impressed some people."

The only UK seniors invited to the official NFL Combine, defenders Winston Guy and Danny Trevathan, have been battling nagging injuries.

Guy, who has a left groin strain, was in jeans and a sweater Wednesday, opting to chat with scouts instead of work out for them.

The former Lexington Catholic star, who was second on UK's team in tackles last season, said he strained his groin while training in Florida. He rested it before the combine, but re-injured it when he ran his first 40-yard dash in Indianapolis.

"In the drills it wasn't holding up like I thought it was going to be," Guy said. "I didn't want to go through the drills with the injury and I didn't want to pull anything or tear anything. The trainer told me to pull out. I felt like I wouldn't be ready to do the Pro Day today."

Guy and his agent are trying to set up an opportunity to work out for scouts (and record a more accurate 40 time in late March).

"It's really frustrating," Guy said. "It was frustrating at the combine, because you have all this competition from guys around the country. It kind of lowered my self-esteem a little bit. ... The most important thing is for me to get healthy, for me to perform the way I want to perform."

Trevathan, the Southeastern Conference tackles leader the past two seasons, ran his first 40-yard dash Wednesday, but declined the second opportunity citing a right hamstring pull. He did participate in the other drills, but looked to be struggling throughout.

He declined to talk to the media after the event.

Coach Joker Phillips, who watched from the sideline with several Kentucky underclassmen, said it was nice to have so many scouts in the building to look at UK's departing class.

"I can remember when there weren't but one or two (scouts) to come here and they were local," Phillips said. "Now to have pretty much every team represented here at our Pro Day just speaks volumes about how far we've come."

Kentucky has had more than 30 players drafted or signed as free agents in the past four years, most recently Randall Cobb, who was drafted in the second round by the Green Bay Packers last year. This year's draft will be April 26-28.

Pro Day serves other purposes, too, Phillips said.

"This is definitely a way to motivate (underclassmen) and a good way to sell our program, too, that we have this many scouts come to our Pro Day," he said. "Kids talk. Kids tweet. ... I'm sure they'll be tweeting about how many scouts were here and that does nothing but sell the program. That's been real helpful. It's been this way for a few years and it's done nothing but sell this program."

The Cats coach couldn't help but call out a few of his former players, like tight end Nick Melillo, who looked more muscular for NFL suitors.

"It's amazing how we tried to get him to 250, and in three months he gets to 250," Phillips joked. "He was hovering around 235 and he's come back about 250 and changed his body. Same with (defensive tackle) Mark Crawford, he was one we were trying to shed weight from and it looks like he's lost a few pounds."

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