Football's Pro Day hopes to keep 50-year NFL draft streak alive
Less than a year ago, ex-center Brian Allen and linebacker Chris Frey were voted as the lone two captains for the 2017 season — and Frey had a shorter beard.
They helped spear MSU into having a turnaround 10-3 season, which eventually led to a dominating Holiday Bowl win over Washington State.
During football’s annual Pro Day Friday, Allen, Frey, along with ex-running back Gerald Holmes, defensive end Demetrius Cooper and kicker Brett Scanlon, tried to show NFL scouts what they could provide an NFL roster.
“I was nervous, I’m not going to lie to you,” Frey said. “I was gassed at the end. There was like five of us at the end and they were flying through. But my mindset, honestly, was to just show them what I got.
“And if they don’t like what I got, next team.”
MSU has a 50-year streak of Spartans being drafted into the NFL, dating to 1967. But even with a “light” class at Pro Day, head coach Mark Dantonio said he thinks one of his former players will get drafted by the NFL.
“This place gives you an opportunity to play at the highest level in this conference, in this division,” Dantonio said. “So when you have a chance to play at the highest level, the competition is stiff but it prepares you for the next step.”
Frey said he has not had any interviews or workouts with NFL teams, but said he should know more within the next few days.
Allen, however, said he’s been in communication with a couple NFL teams and is setting up workouts with them in the next couple weeks.
The Hinsdale, Illinois native is working out in Chandler, Arizona with the likes of former Cardinals guard Alex Boone and Eagles guard Chance Warmack.
“It’s pretty good to have guys like that around, you know, just to bounce questions off them and help me with techniques and stuff like that,” Allen said. “Just being in that environment is good for me. Just being around guys who will be with me for the next couple months.”
Dantonio said he’s heard from NFL personnel that Allen is just “a football player” and believes he will play a long time in the NFL, because of his versatility on the offensive line.
“He’s just so athletic. He’s powerfully built. You know, he’s a wrestler,” Dantonio said. “One thing about what we do here is we play a pro-style offense. That does prepare them from a terminology standpoint.”
Holmes, who worked out with Frey and Cooper for a couple months in Miami, had the highest vertical and broad jump out of the five with a 35-inch vertical and 10’8” broad jump, which would’ve tied for second among running backs at the NFL Scouting Combine.
“He’s had some very big games, he’s been a third-down back, he can catch the ball very well – you guys saw that today,” Dantonio said. “Physically, you know he’s big, run, powerful, jump, those types of things. I think what he’s looking for is an opportunity and given that opportunity he’s going to compare very favorably with the players that are in that league.”
Out of the five who participated on Pro Day, Allen is the only one projected to be drafted, with NFL.com having him go in the sixth round at the earliest. At the combine, Allen said his grades with team ranged from a second-round pick to a fifth-round pick.
“At the end of the day, it’s not up to me. If it was, I would be going in the first round,” Allen said. “That’s someone else’s decision. Not mine.
“I’ve been working as hard as I could and felt I’ve had a good enough career (at MSU) to have that happen. But at the same time, if it doesn’t I’ll be ready to play football wherever I end up.”
As for Frey, he wants to make it to the NFL and “have the opportunity to play against the best players in the entire world.”
“I don’t care where I play, I just want to play,” Frey said. “I love this game. I don’t want to give it up yet.”
Allen said he’s learned how to handle draft projections after watching his older brother, New Orleans Saints center Jack Allen, go undrafted in 2016. In fact, he said he had more anxiety waiting to see if Jack would get drafted than he does with his own draft.
“It was probably good I got to watch him with expectations of him getting drafted on the second day, to not getting called until after the seventh round on the third day,” Allen said. “Just kind of expect the worst, and hope for the best really.”
Allen said on draft weekend, which will be held from April 26-28 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, he does not plan to throw a party or do anything special. Just like your average Joe.
“I’ll be sitting on my couch and being a loser,” Allen said.