Utah Utes football: Utes try to make good impressions for NFL
Scott G. Winterton, Deseret Morning News
Utah's NFL hopefuls didn't get a lot of sleep the night before "Pro Day." Most of the Utes who participated in the annual event acknowledged feeling restless before showcasing their talents in front of the scouts.
Defensive tackle Gabe Long said he awoke during the night with his heart thumping and his mind racing wondering how he'd fare in the various tests and drills Monday. Defensive end Martail Burnett got up around 3 a.m.; middle linebacker Joe Jiannoni thought it was 4 or so before he caught a few winks; and safety Steve Tate said he woke up at 5 and just sat there.
"It was stressful," admitted Tate.
"It was just nerve-racking," he said. "It's your job interview."
Last season's seniors, which included offensive lineman Jason Boone, defensive end Martail Burnett, quarterback Tommy Grady, center Kyle Gunther, wide receiver Brian Hernandez, tailback Darryl Poston, wide receiver Derrek Richards and long snapper candidates Malakai Mokofisi and Casey Sutera, were put through a variety of agility and skill tests by scouts from 18 NFL teams.
"I thought it went really well. The scouts said great things about just how solid this was as a group," said Utah assistant coach Morgan Scalley, who oversaw the gathering. "They said that their form and pro agility stuff was better than a lot of groups they've seen."
Among the individual standouts, he added, were Hernandez, Richards, Boone, Tate and Burnett.
Hernandez and Richards caught the scouts' attention by running low 4.4s in the 40. Boone, meanwhile, bench-pressed 225 pounds 27 times and showed his athleticism after missing the entire 2007 season with a knee injury.
Tate and Burnett, meanwhile, got closer looks from a lot of teams.
Scalley said scouts were impressed with Tate's agility work, and Burnett was explosive in his jumps.
"I feel good for the most part," said Burnett, who felt he dropped too many passes and stumbled on some cuts. "I've got to polish that up."
Burnett doesn't mind that some teams are looking at him as a linebacker. However, he joked that quarterback would be better.
"I hoped they're impressed by the things I did, and I look forward to the draft," said Burnett.
Tate is also looking forward to next month's NFL Draft now that "Pro Day" is in the books.
"This is just a huge cloud over your head for nine weeks to get to this point now. I hit the times I needed to hit, so to speak. You would always look to do better," said Tate, who has heard he could be picked in the fifth, sixth or seventh rounds or end up in a camp via free agency. "I just want an opportunity. It takes just one team to like me."
Overall, Scalley said, the Utes made a good showing for the scouts.
"It's a crazy day. It's a job interview, and these guys have been training for a few months getting ready for this," he noted. "Nerves settle in, but those guys who have trained the right way and prepared the right way really have nothing to worry about. They'll let their testing do the talking."
Weeks of intense conditioning led up to "Pro Day." When it was over, however, some players opted to reward themselves."I think the body fat test went pretty well. I was under 2 percent. That should tell me, I think, I was a health risk," joked Gunther. "So I'm going to Crown Burger after this and try to get that up. It's just a health concern."
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