Pro Day is a unique opportunity, not just for the upper echelon of NFL Draft prospects. For guys like Michigan State redshirt senior linebacker Ben VanSumeren – a lesser-known prospect on the national ranks – it’s the only one or two shots they get to impress professional scouts.
If any one of the 12 Spartans to participate in Michigan State’s Pro Day Wednesday dropped the most jaws of visiting scouts, it was VanSumeren. His out-of-this-world athletic ability was on full display, garnering the loudest hoots and hollers of the day from his spectating teammates and coaches.
He wasn’t invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, but had he been there, many of his statistics would’ve ranked among the best. VanSumeren started with a 42.5-inch vertical jump, a measurement that would’ve ranked first among all linebackers and third among all positions at the combine. He even received a third attempt at the jump after the scouts had to raise the tester because he completely cleared it on his second leap.
“God damn that’s crazy,” one MSU player said under his breath after VanSumeren’s vertical jump.
Then at the broad jump, VanSumeren turned heads again with a 10-foot-11-inch leap that also would’ve been the top for all linebackers. On the bench press, he produced 29 reps, which would’ve been tied for first among linebackers, before sprinting to a 4.40 in the 40-yard dash that would have been second among linebackers at the combine.
“Ben’s an absolute freak. I don’t care what anyone says,” then shouted another MSU player following his 40-yard dash.
Since declaring for the NFL Draft, VanSumeren has been training in Florida alongside redshirt senior wide receiver Jayden Reed, who – along with sixth-year punter Bryce Baringer – was one of the two MSU participants at the NFL Scouting Combine. It’s why Reed wasn’t shocked at all that VanSumeren put on a show, and neither were his other teammates who all pulled out their phones to record VanSumeren. It was like they all knew something special was about to happen.
“I knew Ben was going to crush every drill and everything,” Reed said. “Ben's a freak, so we all knew that. That doesn't surprise me at all.”
A Bay City native, VanSumeren made a unique change when he transferred from Michigan to MSU ahead of the 2021 season. He seldomly played in his first season with the Spartans, leading him to enter the transfer portal once again. However, VanSumeren kept practicing with the team while in the portal, and ultimately decided to stay put in East Lansing.
It was a decision that may have saved his football career, as he became a key piece to the MSU linebacking core, especially after redshirt junior Darius Snow suffered a season-ending injury in the first game of the season.
“I'm so grateful that I came back,” VanSumeren said. “I mean, at that time, I felt like there were only a few people that really believed in me. I'm grateful to say that those people that believed in me were in the building too. Like coach (Mel Tucker), coach (Scottie Hazelton), those guys, I'm so grateful for them for keeping me around here because I'm grateful. It all ended up working out for me, so I'm blessed.”
Luckily for VanSumeren, Wednesday wasn’t the only time he’s shined on the national stage over the last month. He was selected to the East-West Shrine Bowl in Las Vegas, where he recorded a game-high seven tackles to go along with a sack.
How much the stock the scouts put into VanSumeren’s measurables may not be clear until the draft takes place in late April, but wherever he may land – with or without an NFL team – VanSumeren established that his uncanny athleticism cannot be disregarded.
“I feel like I had a pretty good day,” VanSumeren said. “I'm happy with how things went in the tests and the drill work.”