Vandy, TSU players ready for one big show for pros

Friday, March 22, 2013 at 1:45am

Ryan Seymour won’t put on a suit and a tie. But the impression he makes Friday is instrumental in landing his dream job.

The 6-foot-5, 305-pound offensive lineman will be one of nine Vanderbilt seniors participating in a pro day. At Tennessee State, another 15 players will hold similar workouts on Friday just as MTSU did on Thursday.

For those not invited to the combine last month, these heavily scrutinized individual drills in front of NFL scouts serve as an audition — the only one for many.

“This is every college athlete’s interview for the NFL,” Seymour said. “This is where it all starts. This is probably the most important thing other than your [game] tape that the scouts want to see leading up to the draft [in April]. Every athlete knows this is their one shot and that is why there is so much effort and time that goes into this process.”

The process concludes on Friday when Seymour and eight former teammates will complete several individual tests with representatives from nearly all 32 teams to chart their every move.

Also hoping to increase their draft prospects or land in training camp with a team are linebacker Archibald Barnes, punter Richard Kent, tight end Austin Monahan, quarterback Jordan Rodgers, safety Eric Samuels, defensive end Johnell Thomas and cornerback Trey Wilson. Zac Stacy, the school’s all-time leading rusher and Vanderbilt’s lone representative at the combine, will also participate.

Along with measuring their height and weight, scouts will track how the players fare in seven workouts: a 225-pound bench press, vertical jump, broad (standing long) jump, 40-yard dash, 20-yard pro shuttle drill, a three-cone L drill and a 60-yard shuttle drill. On top of these workouts, scouts will analyze individual drills pertaining to the player’s position.

“This is not football. This is physical performance testing,” Vanderbilt strength and conditioning coach Dwight Galt said. “It is important to the pros, to the NFL scouts — but not just the numbers, not just the measurables. A lot of it is the ability to take instruction. A lot of it is when they do their individual workout at the end it is a tough thing. It is very fatiguing. They want to see how they respond when they get tired. Will they still perform hard? Will they still be able to think?”

Preparation for each workout varies.

The 20-yard pro shuttle drill and three-cone L drill, for example, require part flexibility, part leg strength and part acceleration. These drills are commonly used to measure lateral speed.

Rodgers said since the season ended in December, the NFL hopefuls have worked on technique pertaining to quickly moving their feet and hips 100 times a week.

“As a team we bust through weights and conditioning,” Rodgers said. “This kind of training is slightly different. It is more tailored to exactly what you need to get better at in the short period of time you have.”

Kent assumes he’ll have plenty of time to contemplate his future.

The former walk-on recently attended a kicking camp in Florida and realized the pursuit of a breakthrough likely will test his patience. With fewer available roster spots for punters and kickers, his odds to make an NFL roster are smaller.

“I met guys at the camp who have been training for five or six years trying to make it,” Kent said. “Some of them don’t make it until they are 28 or 29. I realize that if I’m going to really give it a shot it is going to be an investment with my time and my life. It is not just going to be a couple months. But I’m ready to give it a shot.”

Thus, for Kent, booming 60-yard punts in Vanderbilt Stadium will only help his chances. Rodgers is focusing on proving he has the arm strength to make an NFL roster. Seymour wants to show he possesses the speed, the strength and fundamentals to block at the next level.

All of them hope the finished product — coupled with the work of their collegiate careers — will be enough to catch the eye of at least one scout.

“This is your one-time deal that you can go out there and show these scouts who you are and what you’re made of,” Seymour said. “There is a lot of pressure involved in this and guys can get really worked up. A lot of guys can get nervous but you just have to put that behind you and rely on your training.”