The Slippery Rock University football program held their annual Pro Day at Mihalik-Thompson Stadium on Thursday for select players from not just The Rock, but from other local and out of state schools as well.
Pro Days give select graduating seniors a chance to show off their talent and athletic ability in front of professional scouts from the National Football League (NFL) and other professional leagues. The day gives the athletes not just a chance to shine, but to also show off the school they represent.
“To be able to have your own NFL Pro Day and I don’t know exactly how many NFL scouts we have today, we’re still adding them up,” SRU football head coach Shawn Lutz said. “But it’s just great publicity not only for the university as a whole, but also for our football team.”
Nine of the 27 players that attended the event were from The Rock including Division II National Defensive Player of the Year, defensive end Marcus Martin. Martin broke the NCAA all-divison career sack record, with 56 career sacks, but he is now drawing attention from the other side of the ball as well at fullback.
“I’d just say I became such a well-rounded athlete now, before I was so used to going in one direction and that was forward,” Martin said. “When you’re on the D-line all you do is get off and go forward, but now I’ve become an athlete where I can change direction, go backwards, and go forward, on command just by instinct.”
Martin mentioned the day could’ve gone better, but he feels that way because he believes you can always do better anytime you are doing testing with time, Martin said.
“I think I did well, I’m just an overachiever, a good day for most people is a bad day for me,” Martin said. “I always want to be great at everything I do so I’m always striving for the best.”
Among others from The Rock included offensive lineman Ian Park, who has been invited to other showcase events back in January and has attracted attention from professional scouts as well. When at The Rock, Park played guard, but since the season has ended, he has worked on the center position as well, like he did when at Northwestern University.
“One of the things I wanted to work on was just explosion, coming out of my stance and stuff like that,” Park said. “At Slippery Rock we are in a two-point stance and transitioning to NFL stuff like a three-point stance and be kind of versatile.”
Other SRU players included wide receivers Marcus Johnson, Milly Raye, and Andrew Bridgeforth, along with quarterback Tanner Garry, defensive back Delmar Henderson, running back Isiah Neely, and long snapper Garret McFarland.
Athletes from other schools included Clarion University, Robert Morris University, Youngstown State University, Carnegie Mellon University, Eastern Kentucky University, Juniata College, Auburn University, Gannon University, Mount Union University, University of Charleston (W.Va.) and Buffalo State College.
Coach Lutz mentioned that the scouts do not share much information with him and the other coaches, because they are meant to come here and run the show, he said.
“This is like the FBI around here,” Lutz said. “It’s hard to get anything from them, it’s really up to them, their business. We’re not doing anything for it, we just show up, give them the facility, and they do what they want to do. I’m just excited, we’ve had some good guys and to have something like this and have that opportunity and there’s 32 teams in the NFL and it only takes one team to like you.”
The Athletes went through many drills and exercises such as vertical jump, weight lifting, long jump, the 40-yard dash, then three and four cone shuttle. The official results of the day for each player are kept between the scouts, but the results will come public in the near future.
“The key is they specialize in what they need to do for the combine,” Lutz said. “They learn how to do those types of things and they sign with a NFL agent and the NFL agent gets them to a facility that just trains them for that.”
After the drills were finished, four SRU players were selected by SRU scouts to participate in individual workouts. Martin and Park participated in fullback and linman drills, respectively, while the duo of Johnson and Bridgeforth participated in wide receiver drills. Garry was the quarterback for those drills after being the lone quarterback at Duquesne’s pro day earlier this week.The 2018 NFL Draft will take place April 26-28, so all athletes will now wait until then to see if they are taken, but if not, they will have the free agency period following that and possibly offers from other football leagues as well.