FAU Hosts Pro Day for Graduating Football Seniors

16 players participate in tryout on campus in front of professional scouts.

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FAU Hosts Pro Day for Graduating Football Seniors

Wide Receiver Daniel McKinney runs through the three cone drill as onlookers take his time. Max Jackson | Photo Editor

Wide Receiver Daniel McKinney runs through the three cone drill as onlookers take his time. Max Jackson | Photo Editor

Max Jackson

Wide Receiver Daniel McKinney runs through the three cone drill as onlookers take his time. Max Jackson | Photo Editor

Max Jackson

Max Jackson

Wide Receiver Daniel McKinney runs through the three cone drill as onlookers take his time. Max Jackson | Photo Editor

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Capture1For the 16 senior football players that are leaving FAU completely after the spring, tryouts, workouts and interviews fill the remainder of their schedules leading into next fall. Players’ professional hopes are bolstered or dashed by these tryouts.

Hosted by the athletic department on April 2, FAU’s Pro Day was a major gathering. Multiple NFL teams (see sidebar) as well as two teams from the Canadian Football League sent scouts, GMs or coaches to Boca Raton decked out in team apparel to see what the Owls’ players had to offer.

Participating players first went to the weight room for height and weight measurements and the bench press exercise. They were then put through various conditioning measurement tests on the turf field outside FAU Arena, including the 40 yard dash, and the three cone drill.

Most notable in his appearance was Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, the only NFL head coach in attendance. “Everyone worked, they were in good shape,” he said of the players “These guys had good numbers in the weight room. They’ve been doing what they’re supposed to do.”

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Chuck Pagano Interview courtesy of Owl TV

Cornerback D’Joun Smith was one of the main attractions for scouts in attendance. Decked out in neon green gloves and cleats, Smith came ready to impress those in attendance. He had previously been selected to the Reese’s Senior Bowl in St. Petersburg, Florida, as well as being invited to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Indiana.

“Well, it was mostly competition.” Smith said of why he came out today. “Me and Lucky [Whitehead] have been having this debate for the longest time, who’s the fastest man on the team. I firmly believe I was the fastest man, he firmly believes he was the fastest man. He has more wins than me, but I definitely came to showcase who was the fastest man today.”

Lucky Whitehead (white) and D’joun Smith (black) laugh after Whitehead caught a ball at pro day. Whitehead and Smith were two of the most asked about players by scouts, according to head coach Charlie Partridge. Max Jackson | Photo Editor

Lucky Whitehead (white) and D’joun Smith (black) laugh after Whitehead caught a ball at pro day. Whitehead and Smith were two of the most asked about players by scouts, according to head coach Charlie Partridge. Max Jackson | Photo Editor

“It was just being around my teammates, I didn’t want to sit back,” he added. “I just went with the flow, I’m just gonna compete and make my guys do better than they think they can do.”

Smith’s father, Jason, was among the agents, fans and family present to watch the players. Agent Ashante Webb and Smith’s younger brother were also present to watch him go through drills.

“The process is a little crazy.” said the elder Smith. “It makes you nervous. You wonder what teams want him. Just gotta pray and hope for the best. Meeting the agent is the hardest part, once you get that out of the way, everything else is easy because the agent handles everything.”

Smith attempts to catch a pass during a positional drill for defensive backs. Max Jackson | Photo Editor

Smith attempts to catch a pass during a positional drill for defensive backs. Max Jackson | Photo Editor

Smith echoed his father’s sentiment. “The agent thing, I think that might be the longest process because it’s a lot of trust that goes into picking an agent. I didn’t handle the situation at all.”

“I thank God that my mother and father were like hounds.” Smith said of his parents involvement in selecting a representative. “My momma did a lot of research, looked for questions to ask the agents, she didn’t let no (sic) agent come and blow smoke in her face. She was calling out stuff they did in the past they thought they wiped under the rug. My mother really did her thing.”

Wide receiver and kick returner Lucky Whitehead looked to improve confidence in his abilities and get invited to training camp. “I felt great. I did great. I felt like I could’ve done better in the 40.” he said. “But I think I still ran fast, just didn’t come out like usual. Overall, I feel great and did a lot of things to help myself.”

Whitehead said many scouts came in with expectations for him. “A lot of people wanted to see me gain weight, which I did. A lot of people wanted me to run fast and stuff like that, which I did. After today, I really helped myself. A lot of teams said I made money today.”

“The process is nerve wracking.” Whitehead said of his post-college path. “You just don’t know. You’re blind out here. I did great, but I don’t know any of my numbers. I have a good feeling, though. It was fun competing out here and putting my training to work.”

Tight end Alex DeLeon wanted to prove to teams he was healthy after spraining his ankle in the second-to-last game of the season against Middle Tennessee.

“Yea, that was the most difficult injury I had, given the fact that I had a strong stretch in the second half of the season.” DeLeon said “I wanted to end on a strong note, but obviously that didn’t happen.”

Safety Damian Parms jumps to catch a pass during a defensive drill at pro day. Max Jackson | Photo Editor

Former wide receiver Daniel McKinney attempts to catch a pass during Pro day. Max Jackson | Photo Editor

“I wasn’t even allowed to walk for the first two months, so once February hit they let me walk in the boot. Made a decision on my own to train barefoot so when I got out of that boot I wasn’t walking flatfooted, so I was on my toes. I’m just happy for the outcome I had.”

Wide Receiver Lucky Whitehead jumps and reaches during a vertical measurement test at FAU’s pro day. Max Jackson | Photo Editor

Wide Receiver Lucky Whitehead jumps and reaches during a vertical measurement test at FAU’s pro day. Max Jackson | Photo Editor

DeLeon had goals laid out for himself after he recovered.  “You know, make a team, sign a contract. I’m a realist.” DeLeon said “I know where I stand right now, but I’m a person who’s a competitor, I compete within myself first. I just wanna make sure I make it to a camp first, give it my best to reach a 53-man roster.”

Head coach Charlie Partridge got to enjoy his second pro day of his career, and first with guys he had an opportunity to coach. “It’s exciting.” He said “It’s exciting to see Andrae Kirk after all his hard work come out and have a great day.”

Partridge had praise for Smith and Whitehead as well.“D’joun did not disappoint, ran very well, did very good in drills. Lucky Whitehead, like you’d expect opened a lot of eyes. They were excited to evaluate Lucky and he didn’t disappoint either. It’s fun, You’re hearts more in it. You’re proud.”

Last year cornerback Keith Reaser and linebacker Randell Johnson were both drafted in the 2014 NFL Draft, in the fifth and seventh rounds respectively. Attendees of pro day will hope to repeat the success their predecessors found in finding a spot on an NFL roster, using this as a jumping point.