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Players audition for the scouts

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    Players audition for the scouts

    Daniel Giles/TimesDaily NFL scout Kyle O’Brien with the Patriots holds up his stopwatch to time Michael Johnson in a 40-yard sprint during Pro Day at UNA on Thursday.

    By Jeff McIntyre
    Assistant Sports Editor


    Published: Friday, March 12, 2010 at 3:30 a.m.
    Last Modified: Thursday, March 11, 2010 at 9:27 p.m.
    FLORENCE - Around 50 young men went through job interviews Thursday morning at the University of North Alabama.

    But instead of a suit and tie, these job applicants wore running shorts and cleats.

    This was not a job fair, but rather it was UNA's first Pro Day, where football players get their chance to audition for NFL scouts. UNA's top juniors worked out for the scouts in the morning, followed by the 2009 seniors and later by some players from the 2008 team.

    Although these players have performed in plenty of high-pressure games, many were visibly nervous as they took their first shot at fulfilling their dream of playing pro football.

    "I was so nervous last night that I couldn't sleep," said offensive tackle Calvin Wilson. "My nerves showed during the first couple of drills we did. But I finally calmed down and did better later in the day. I feel like I had a pretty decent day and helped myself."

    Players began the day by being measured and weighed. They moved on to the weight room where they were measured in the broad jump. It was then on to the bench press where they tried to do as many reps as possible with 225 pounds on the bar.

    The players were then tested for their vertical leap before hitting the practice field to be timed in the 40-yard dash. Up next were two different shuttle runs, which several players struggled with due to the wet field.

    "It was a little bit difficult with the field conditions," safety Quinton Andrews said. "I'm a little upset with how I did because I've been doing better in my training. I was slipping on everything, so my overall performance was not as good as I had hoped for. But I'm going to keep my head up and keep on working."

    Linebacker Michael Johnson was clocked at between 4.6 and 4.7 in his two attempts in the 40-yard dash. He was pleased with his overall performance.

    "I had food poisoning over the weekend and couldn't hold down any food for about three days," Johnson said. "That and the weather made this a pretty nerve-racking experience. But I've felt better the last couple of days and I'm excited about the day I had today."

    Wilson, despite weighing 367 pounds, ran a solid 5.35 40-yard dash. Wide receiver Mico McSwain was among the fastest players, running a 4.5 40-yard dash, while defensive back Jason Tate impressed the scouts with a broad jump of 10 feet, 6 inches.

    Quarterback Harrison Beck, running back Tim Hicks, defensive linemen Montrell Craft, Domini Pittman and Brandon Fanney and safety J.J. Johnson were just a few of the other seniors showcasing their skills. Wide receivers Rocky Coleman and Bobby Williams, running backs David McCants and Mike McLendon and defensive back David Raymond were among the players from the 2008 UNA squad that participated.

    Many of the players trying out Thursday have been working out with other NFL prospects with specialized trainers. Several players plan on attending another Pro Day at another school or having some type of individual workout.

    One player that has already been seen by most scouts is Preston Parker. The wide receiver who transferred from Florida State before the 2009 season attended last week's NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

    Parker was pleased that he ran a 4.59 40-yard-dash, improving on his 4.67 time at the Combine.

    "I got all of my nerves out at the Combine," Parker said. "It was nice to come back here and support everyone. I gave it my all today. I did really well in the shuttle run and got my 40 time down, so I'm really pleased."

    Michael Johnson, who was named Gulf South Conference and Division II Defensive Player of the Year, said All-America teams and other awards mean nothing to the guys holding the stopwatches at the workouts.

    "I'm just another guy to the scouts," Johnson said. "They don't care what I did in college and they don't care about those player of the year awards. But I like that because I know I have to work hard to prove myself to a different set of coaches.

    "It's a challenge, but I'm up for the challenge. It's definitely like a job interview. I just turned in my resume out there and now we'll see how it turns out."

    Jeff McIntyre can be reached at 740-5737 or jeff.mcintyre@TimesDaily.com.

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