Slippery Rock football hosted 15 NFL teams at its pro day on Thursday, March 23, and all 30 eyes were on junior cornerback Titus Howard.
Rock football head coach Shawn Lutz said he has never seen one person bring in so much interest from the NFL to The Rock like Howard did.
“I was very, very surprised when I showed up,” Lutz said. “I thought we’d just have a couple, but when you have the Raiders and all of those guys, it’s awesome.”
The junior declared a year early for the draft, making him the only draft eligible athlete from SRU. While his numbers were not impressive when it came to off-field testing, the 6’2” corner showed why he is one of the most sought after athletes in Division II football.
“I’m not really a field type of person,” Howard said. “But, if you put me on that field and run me through a couple of (defensive back) drills, I’ll do great in them.”
Howard said his on-field play was his biggest strength and the scouts noticed. Not only did Howard lead most of the drills, but was given extra drills to do on top of the heavy workload that he was already carrying.
“He tried to kill me, but I stayed strong and was able to stay focus” Howard said.
Howard’s coaches recognize his presence on the field. Defensive coordinator Domenick Razzano said that Howard was one player he never had to worry about.
“Titus is the ultimate competitor,” Razzano said. “He was going to go right up and press those outside receivers. He was tremendous in that field.”
Even though the pro day was cut short and the scouts left immediately after the Titus Howard Show was over, there were a number of defensive backs who got to show their on-field talents, and some other Rock athletes had the opportunity to show their natural abilities during testing.
Former defensive backs Deonte Flemings, Derrick Fulmore, Kevin Green and Kris Williams all got to participate in on-field drills as well as off-field testing, while linebacker Anthony Zappone and defensive lineman Joe Phillips turned heads in testing, despite not having the opportunity to do any on-field workouts.
“The NFL is a cutthroat business,” Lutz said. “We just show up, put this thing together, and they tell us what we want to do, and we go from there.”
One team that was not represented at the pro day was the Cincinnati Bengals. For most, it’s a lost opportunity, but for Howard, the absence of the Bengals means he has a greater opportunity to play against his former high school (Clariton, Pa.) and college teammate (before he transferred from University of Pittsburgh), wide receiver Tyler Boyd.
“I think I’d rather play against him,” Howard said. “You know he’s going to bring the best out of me, and I’m going to bring the best out of him. So you know, it might be a historic game.”
Any of these former SRU athletes has the opportunity to make their professional dreams a reality, and any team can invite them to a camp to get that opportunity. But for Howard, that journey starts earlier.
Howard’s strength and focus was what helped him succeed on the field during the pro day when he was tired, but only time will tell if it was enough for a team to take a chance on him come draft day.
The NFL draft is April 27-29.