Kent State's pro day Thursday at the field house allowed several former Golden Flashes the opportunity to showcase their skills to NFL scouts. For Jack Williams and Colin Ferrell, the event was a chance at redemption.
Williams, the lone KSU player invited to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Ind., wasn't satisfied with his official combine performance last month and used the pro day as a means to show scouts he was faster than what he showed in Indiana.
"I wanted to run a little faster 40," Williams said. "That's all I really cared about was the 40. We do all these other drills but all the scouts and all the teams and owners want to see how fast you are and that's what I tried to show them today."
A defensive back, Williams was one of the NFL Combine's top performers on the bench press and vertical jump. He performed 19 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press and posted a 35.5-inch vertical jump, both Top 10 performances for defensive backs.
His 40-yard dash score was a disappointing 4.45. He changed that on Thursday in Kent where he posted times of 4.32 and 4.33 seconds.
"The combine was more of a mental thing; they spread things out and make you do a lot of waiting to see how you are going to handle it," he said. "Obviously, I didn't handle it too well; I didn't perform like I should have. You know, home environment, you feel a little more comfortable; you're around your teammates that you've been working with for a few years and you just feel a lot more confident and do better."
Williams felt he excelled in the off-the-field portion of the combine. He worked hard to prepare himself for the interviews with scouts, coaches and owners. During his training for the combine, he spoke frequently with former KSU cornerback, Usama Young, now a member of the New Orleans Saints.
"He told me, the athletic ability is going to take care of itself; how you carry yourself and how you talk to the teams and how your interviews go is a big part of it," Williams said. "I made sure I spoke properly and just wasn't some kid off the street talking all kind of street slang and all that kind of stuff. Usama and I went over some stuff in person, he actually visited me when I was out in (California), we did practice interviews and things like that on the phone; it kind of helped me."
For Ferrell, his redemption came in different ways. After undergoing off-season shoulder surgery before the start of the 2007 campaign, Ferrell knew his strength numbers weren't going to be up to par. So, he focused on other areas and his hard work paid off.
The defensive tackle posted a 4.8-second time in the 40-yard dash and an impressive 35.5-inch vertical jump. His vertical jump score tied the top mark set at the NFL Combine by Ohio State's Vernon Gholston.
"I've been training out in the Euclid Sports Plant in Cleveland. We stressed a lot of jump work, a lot of explosiveness," Ferrell said. "I knew that was one of the areas I had to excel in because I had shoulder surgery last summer so I knew the bench wouldn't be my strong point. So, I definitely had to redeem myself on stuff like the agility drills and the vertical. I'm definitely satisfied; I expected to jump 33 and then jumping 35 was probably tops in the nation."
Ferrell fell short of his goal on the bench, but he isn't overly considered.
"I was hoping for 25-30, but that might have been a little stretch; I was shooting high," he said. "Looking back, I'm satisfied with it. Scouts said don't worry about it. As long as you get over 20, they pretty much don't mind too much."
While the Golden Flashes performed well in front of scouts from the Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals, New England Patriots, New York Giants and several other NFL teams, their draft hopes still hinge on what those scouts see on film.
"I think they did pretty well; again these are all great drills to show what guys can do," said KSU assistant coach Scott Booker. "At the end, it comes down to what scouts see on film. As far as what they did today, they did a good job."
Booker said the recent combine performances of Young, Williams and Ferrell will go a long way in keeping Kent State on the path of NFL scouts. The NFL success of Josh Cribbs, Antonio Gates and James Harrison won't hurt either.
"It's a tremendous source of pride to see guys that donned the Kent State uniform that are now successful in the pros," Booker said. "It's definitely a source of pride. It's a credit to hard work and everything that we've tried to build here; Mr. (Laing) Kennedy and everything else, trying to establish a program that has a tradition and that's what we're trying to do. Being able to see guys going and being successful in the NFL, that's proving that we're on the right track."