Here’s my story in today’s (March 28) Connecticut Post on the UConn Pro Day activities.
STORRS — The smallest guy might have had the biggest day.
Nick Williams, listed at 5-foot-10, 185 pounds on the roster, but likely a couple of inches shorter (and a lot lighter), first opened some eyes with a 37-inch vertical leap and then opened some more with a 4.56 40-yard dash at UConn’s annual Pro Day on Wednesday afternoon at the Mark E. Shenkman Training Facility.
Along with Williams, NFL Combine participants Sio Moore, Trevardo Williams, Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Dwayne Gratz took part in individual and position drills as did 10 other seniors, including defensive end Ryan Wirth, wide receiver Michael Smith and tight ends Ryan Griffin and John Delahunt.
“There was definitely a little bit of pressure. There’s obviously no tomorrow,” Nick Williams said. “I think I tested out pretty well, got some decent feedback from some teams before this event … and post. I might be short but I think I can bring a lot to an (NFL) team. I’m really quick, I can play a bunch of positions. I’m faster than I look. I can be a valuable asset to a team.”
Williams will initially be looked at as a punt/kick returner and special teams performer — most likely as a free agent — but UConn head coach Paul Pasqualoni feels that he has potential to be a solid inside slot receiver, a la Wes Welker.
“What Nick brings is, he’s got a way on punt returns and kick returns, he’s got a way of really making plays,” Pasqualoni said. “But I really think that he can play that inside slot receiver spot, he just hasn’t had enough experience there yet. We just put him in there last year, but you can’t do it all in a year. I think he’s going to open some eyes and surprise people with his ability to return punts and kickoffs, and he will develop into being a good inside slot receiver.”
Of the 32 NFL teams, just Dallas, Minnesota and Washington did not send representatives or scouts to the Pro Day. New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, wearing a Trinity College sweatshirt, showed up and spent a long time talking with Pasqualoni.
Several mock drafts show Moore as a possible second-round selection with Wreh-Wilson and Trevardo Williams slotted for the mid to late third round or early fourth round. Gratz is being looked at as a sixth- or seventh-round pick.
Moore stood out at the NFL Combine last month in Indianapolis, posting a 4.65 40-yard dash, doing 29 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press, having a 38-inch vertical jump and a 127-inch (10-feet, 7-inches) in the broad jump, earning “top performer” status in all four categories.
“I was just trying to give them the best that I can,” Moore said. “For me, I had an opportunity to showcase myself (playing in the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl) and show what I can do. I went into those games with a chip on my shoulder, trying to prove to everyone that I am the best linebacker in this class … that I can do everything on the field that they ask me to do.”
Despite working on a bad ankle in Indianapolis, Trevardo Williams of Bridgeport, a defensive end at UConn, ran a 4.58 40-yard dash (the best of all 37 linebackers that competed), tied for first with Moore with a 38-inch vertical leap and did 30 reps of 225 pounds. On Wednesday, he competed in the three drills he didn’t do at the combine — the 3-cone drill, the 20-yard shuttle and the 60-yard TD shuttle — but the sore ankle limited what he could do.
“I gave everything that I had and I just hope that (the scouts) appreciate what I did,” said Williams, who is still being bothered by a right ankle sprain and spent much of Pro Day fighting back spasms and a groin strain. “I tried to bear through it. I was a little concerned how it was going to affect me, especially after the (3-cone) shuttle, I tweaked it then, so I knew I wasn’t going to have a good run.”
Wirth had a solid day, doing 33 bench reps, posting a 33½-inch vertical leap and running a 4.85 40-yard dash. Other highlights were guard Adam Masters (33 reps), Griffin (34½-inch vertical, along with a 4.84 40-yard dash) and Smith (33-inch vertical, 4.53 40-yard dash).
“I think they were all prepared. I think they worked hard and gave it all they had,” Pasqualoni said. “It’s a big day for them. It’s the most important job interview they’ve ever had. I don’t know what the times were but it looked like they did well.”