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Utah Utes football: Ex-Utes strut their stuff for NFL scouts

Published: Friday, March 23 2012 5:05 p.m. MDT

Scouts and timers at Utah Pro Day where departing University of Utah senior football players and some invitees work out for NFL scouts in Spence Eccles Field House Friday, March 23, 2012, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Conroy Black was determined to make a good showing at Utah's annual "Pro Day." After failing to get an invitation to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, the cornerback had a lot riding on Friday's workout before 24 scouts and two assistant coaches at the Spence Eccles Field House.

Black didn't disappoint. He ran a 4.3 in the 40 and left the building satisfied with his performance.

"I did all the things I wanted to do," said Black, who earned Pac-12 honorable-mention honors after making 39 tackles and intercepting four passes last season.

Although Black acknowledges he may have fallen under the radar as a one-year starter and junior college transfer, he's hopeful his senior season and showing on Friday will land him in the draft. For inspiration, Black watched the "Pro Day" tape of speedy former Utah cornerback Brice McCain about 10 times. McCain wasn't invited to the combine either, but wound up being drafted by the Houston Texans in the sixth round in 2009.

"I wanted to come out here and show the speed, show my DB skills and show that I can be a good corner in the NFL," Black said. "So hopefully they'll take that into account and give me a chance."

Black isn't alone in seeking an opportunity to play at the next level. Several of his former teammates at Utah have similar aspirations. "Pro Day" has been circled on a lot of calendars.

"It was a good time. A lot of stress is off my back now. It was fun to come out here and see what I had up against everyone else," said linebacker Chaz Walker. "It was a long time training for a little bit of drills, but it was a good time."

Walker was pleased with most of things he did as the scouts and coaches ran the hopefuls through tests including weightlifting, agility drills, timing in the 40 and position-specific work.

Now, he added, everyone just has to sit back and see what happens. The 2012 NFL Draft is slated for April 26-28.

Linebacker Matt Martinez noted that he felt pretty stressed the past couple of days, but said "Pro Day" was awesome.

Utah's three representatives at the NFL Scouting Combine participated — offensive linemen Tony Bergstrom and John Cullen, and defensive lineman Derrick Shelby.

"I thought I did pretty good in the drills and I ran decent enough," said Shelby, who limited his measured participation to the short shuttle and the 40.

After working out in Florida, he's eager for the draft.

"You've just got to be patient and not get too antsy and see how things come," Shelby said, before noting it's all been an enjoyable experience. "I can't wait until it's over, but it was fun while it lasted."

Bergstrom, who is projected to be the first Utah player taken in this year's draft, enjoyed "Pro Day" more than the combine. He and Cullen got a lot of work in with New England Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia.

"It went really well. Today it was a lot more fun. It was a good time working out with coach Scarnecchia and doing some drills," Bergstrom said. "So it was a lot more fun today, a little more laid back than the combine."

Bergstrom noted that Scarnecchia also made the trip to Utah last year.

"I think he likes our program," Bergstrom said. "I think he likes the way we do things here."

Fred Whittingham Jr., Utah's director of player personnel who oversaw "Pro Day," credits the players, coaches and strength and conditioning coach Doug Elisaia for such praise.

"To a person these scouts come up to me and tell me that Utah players know how to work," Whittingham said. "They know how to do this stuff. They listen to directions."

EXTRA POINTS: Cincinnati Bengals defensive line coach Jay Hayes was the other assistant taking a look at the Utes. ... A couple of Weber State players also participated. ... Utah resumes spring practice Saturday from 10 a.m.-noon at Rice-Eccles Stadium. The public is invited.

email: dirk@desnews.com

Twitter: @DirkFacer

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