As 15 former Spartans worked out before 52 NFL representatives to prove their worth in the upcoming NFL Draft at MSU’s Pro Day on Wednesday, they also helped to prove the worth of MSU football.
With scouts from 31 of the 32 NFL teams in attendance — and one high-profile NFL head coach in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Mike Tomlin — head coach Mark Dantonio was asked what it said about his program that the NFL prospects drew such a large crowd.
“I think it sends a message to everyone that this is a place that has great chemistry, and not just great chemistry, but guys who want to play at the next level,” he said. “And that’s a positive for a program, and it shows where we’ve come.”
Dantonio added that the performances of the athletes participating spoke volumes about how the team was able to notch two consecutive 11-win seasons.
Defensive tackle prospect Jerel Worthy said that having so many NFL personnel scouting former members of MSU’s defensive unit also stood as a mark of how perception of the Spartans’ defense has improved just in the time he’s been with the team.
“Normally the offensive guys are the guys that get the glory, but it just shows how far the program has come,” he said. “(It also shows) how hard that we’ve worked as a defensive line and how much we’ve improved as a defense to be able to have (myself) in this position.”
No place like home
For the players who participated in the NFL Combine in February, it was a different experience to return to East Lansing and host workouts in their own environment.
For Worthy, who hoped to improve on his 40-yard dash time from the Combine, Pro Day was a chance to play one last time in the building he had spent the previous three years in.
“It was a great opportunity to be out here and showcase your ability in front of the people you love,” he said.
Wide receiver prospect B.J. Cunningham said he approached Pro Day in the same way he did the Combine. He added the biggest surprise for him in each event was that he wasn’t nervous when the time came to perform before scouts that could determine his future in the NFL.
“(It was) just coming out and playing football,” Cunningham said. “There’s a few people watching, but we play in front of thousands of people, so it (was) nothing.”
Passing the torch
With the departure of quarterback Kirk Cousins, there are many questions surrounding his likely replacement, junior quarterback Andrew Maxwell.
Cousins leaves the Spartans as the winningest quarterback in MSU history, which leaves Maxwell with some big shoes to fill. And although Cousins said he hasn’t spoken with Maxwell much as he prepares for his own journey to the NFL, he said that Maxwell doesn’t really need his help.
“He’s very mature — he’s been around the block,” Cousins said. “He knows what’s going on. So I don’t have to sit down and have any mentoring talks with him, he knows what he’s doing.”
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